Today we’d like to share with you an excerpt from Neil Patel & Bronson Taylor’s “The definitive guide to Growth Hacking“. We at POCO recognize that a large number of people who are interested in learning more about the field of software/internet development or perhaps are interested in engaging our services as developers are entrepreneurs. As such we’d recommend that anyone who’s considering a start up also consider learning a little bit about Growth Hacking. It’s not marketing, not exactly. But, it is essential to understand that growing a user base can make or break a product right out of the gate.

The excerpt we’ve provided is a case study that  illustrates the success companies have had in the past with using growth Hacker tactics. For more information on growth hacking don’t forget to read “The definitive guide to Growth Hacking” . And follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more tech and entrepreneurship related tips and tricks




Excerpt from The definitive guide to Growth Hacking

Up until now we’ve been talking very philosophically about growth hacking. We went through its history, its definition, and what makes it new in the marketplace of ideas. But I know what you’re thinking — give me an example!

In one sense the rest of this guide will be concrete examples, but here is one popular case study that we can use to wrap our head around growth hacking. It’s none other than the poster child of growth hacking, AirBNB. As many of you know, they allow anyone to convert their spare bedrooms into a hotel room that can be rented by perfect strangers. It’s an amazing idea, the execution is incredible, but growth hacking is what possibly put them on the map (pun intended).

They leveraged Craigslist, a platform with millions of users looking for accommodations, to increase their user base substantially. When you are filling out the form to list your bedroom on AirBNB they give you the option to also post the listing to Craigslist, so that it will show up there also, creating inbound links for you and for AirBNB as a platform.

This seems so obvious in retrospect, you may wonder why other companies hadn’t already saturated Craigslist with these kinds of cross postings, making it a noisy channel for customer acquisition. Good question. The answer lies in the fact that Craigslist didn’t have a public API. In layman’s terms, Craigslist didn’t offer an easy way for other companies (like AirBNB) to post to their service. There wasn’t a technological solution that AirBNB could implement easily, and there definitely wasn’t any reference documentation that AirBNB could use to make their listing appear on Craigslist automatically. Instead, they had to reverse engineer how Craiglist’s forms work, and then make their product compatible, without ever having access to the Craigslist codebase. API’s are easy. Reverse engineering is not.

Using this case study, think about how our philosophical meanderings from earlier actually ring true.

  • First, AirBNB did something that a traditional marketer would have a hard time envisioning, much less executing. A bachelors in marketing, as it is currently being taught, is not going to give you the tool set, or even the conceptual framework, to arrive at this sort of deep integration with Craigslist, especially sans API.
  • Second, AirBNB used their product as the primary means of distributing their product. The integration with Craigslist wasn’t something external to AirBNB’s app. It was a part of it. They didn’t run magazine ads to drive traffic to their product. The product drove traffic to itself.
  • Third, AirBNB realized that the distribution mechanism that they needed to hijack was Craigslist. No product exists in a vacuum and the users they needed were already congregating in a different location. So they got their attention.
  • Fourth, they were ingenious. They didn’t read about someone else using Craigslist to cross promote something. They thought of it themselves. Then they had the guts to execute on a beautiful solution when there weren’t any guarantees that it would actually work.
  • Fifth, their growth mechanism was heavily technology based. The team at AirBNB that pulled off this strategy had to have a lot coding expertise, and a general understanding of how web products are built in order to reverse engineer Craigslist.
  • Sixth, they took advantage of holes in an existing marketplace to acquire users. Craigslist didn’t create a public API for a reason. Craig Newmark doesn’t want you doing this on his service. AirBNB pushed the bounds of what is acceptable by not asking for an API, and moving forward without one.

In fact, it looks like Craigslist has “fixed” the vulnerabilities which allowed this integration. Now there is a FAQ answer on AirBNB’s site that says they no longer post to Craigslist. This serves as a great object lesson for growth hackers. Most growth mechanisms have a finite lifespan. It would be unwise for AirBNB to assume that they could post to Craigslist for the next 10 years, as if Craig would allow them to siphon off users little by little every day. But that’s ok. Taking advantage of this temporary opportunity gave them a base of growth that they could use to propel themselves forward.

How to learn to code the right way



This article is meant to be a primer for anyone interested in learning the skill of programming.  However, we won’t be giving you any lessons on data types or control structures. Instead, we’ll be providing you with something much more valuable.

We at POCO encourage everyone to give some type of programming a try at least once in their life. As Steve Jobs put it “Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think”.

“Everybody in this country should learn to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think”

However, if you’re looking to go beyond an afternoon on codecademy it’s important not to be naive about how difficult learning a new skill can be. Every day we stumble across books, blog posts, and videos with titles like “learn python in a month” or “learn anything in six months”. It’s not that they’re lying, really. These resources should be able to teach you the logic, the terminology, and the syntax you’ll need in the time they claim. But, just because you can tell us what a FOR IN loop is and what it’s used for doesn’t mean you’ll always know the proper time to use one. Programming is the ability to break down a process into it’s smallest steps and then explain those steps to a machine in order for it to execute the process for you. It requires careful planning, patience, and dedication to build something great using code.These are also the qualities required to learn a skill on your own.

Patience and dedication are something you’ll have to bring to the game yourself. But, If you want to learn how to code or learn any skill on own for that matter you’ll need a solid plan. That we can help with. Below you’ll find a list of questions to ask yourself along with some tips and resources to get you on your way.


1. Why?

This is the first and most important question to ask yourself because it determines what you’ll need to learn and how long you’ll be learning it. Why do you want to learn how to code? Are you just looking to accomplish a very specific task at work? Then, maybe just a quick trip over to stackoverflow to ask a few questions is right for you. Are you an entrepreneur looking to build a rough prototype to pass on to a professional developer or potential investor? Then maybe a few weeks or months on codcademy is what you need.  Or, are you out to build a career? That is a much longer and more difficult road. This video might be a good place to start. It will give you a good overview of the different skills you might need to learn depending on the path you choose.

Once you’ve set clear goals for yourself and know the course you’re taking it’s time to decide when you’ll do it.

2. When?

If we’re asking ourselves when the best time to start learning the answer will always be anytime. If you’re capable of doing some basic math then you can learn to code. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are. Now is always the best time.

However, while we’re on the subject of time, you should know that to do this right It’s not going to happen overnight.  Peter Norvig summed things up pretty well with this blog post.  Norvig talks about how researchers claim that it takes about ten years of real world experience for anyone to claim to be an expert in any skill. Luckily, you might not have to wait until you’re an expert to accomplish your coding goals. Even if your goal is to land a job. More on that later.

For now suffice it to say that  Rome wasn’t built in a day. And, when you finally sit down to start building Rome it’s best to do it on a schedule. Set aside a specific time during the week. Whether it’s an hour a day, four hours on a Saturday morning, or all day Sunday. Whenever you decide to dedicate your time make sure you emphasize the dedicated part. Learning something new is like going to the gym. If you want to see results you have to be consistent. We’d recommend sitting down to code at least once a week for maybe 4-8 hours.

3. Who?

Who you learn from can be just as important as what you’re learning.Here is a list of 45 of the best places to learn how to code for free. Yes, we live a wonderful age where information that used to cost four years of your life and thousands of dollars is now completely free online. No, you should not rely too heavily on it. There is something known as tutorial paralysis. That’s when someone has spent so much time working to understand theory that struggle with real world application of what they’ve learned. Think of it in terms of the medical field. Would you rather receive open heart surgery from someone who’s read hundreds of books on the subject or someone who’s been performing them successfully for ten years.Yeah, that’s what we thought.

Never forget that the most important person you can learn from is yourself. There is no substitute for experience. Gain experience by working on your own projects. Don’t start off with any thing too complicated. Here is a list of projects for absolute beginners. Never forget that coding is half learning the rules of a language and half your own creative problem solving ability. So, don’t forget to exercise this ability whenever possible.

Another great person to learn from is a mentor. If you’re lucky enough to find someone willing to take you under their wing then take the opportunity. That kind one on one teaching experience is a big part of what makes people willing to pay ridculous amounts of money to a college. Fortunately, if you can’t find a mentor the developer community is notorious for being very helpful to newbs. Stackoverflow is great place to go when you need help answering your development related questions.

4. Where?

Where you learn to code might not seem like such a hard question. If you’re learning on your own you’ll probably be working in your office or living room.It doesn’t matter where you set up but it’s important that you have a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted.

A better question is where to take your skills once you have them. Whether it’s linkedin, github, or maybe just attending a few meetups, becoming a part of the community is a vital part of growing as a developer. Keeping up with the current trends in this constantly changing field, getting involved in projects, or just having a network of people for support are all good reasons to have a plan for networking.

Earlier we mentioned that you might not have to be considered an expert to land you’re first job in the field.Currently, the demand is so high for developers that companies (especially startups) will hire people with less skill just to handle the more menial tasks and free up their really talented people.If in your networking efforts you come across an opportunity to get paid to work on a project take it. There is no better way to learn how to do this job than to actually do it. But, be mindful of what you can accomplish. You don’t want to promise something to someone that you can’t deliver. We suggest building a few projects on your own or contribute to a few open source projects first.


We hope this post has given you a foundation for your self education. If you have any thing to add to the conversation please leave a comment or reach out to us on Twitter. Please, let us know if this article has been helpful to you.

POCO 101 at the Y – Intro to Web Development

Join POCO this summer for a free workshop


July 18th, 2015 – 9am to 1pm


YMCA SouthCoast – Fall River
199 N Main St, Fall River, MA 02720
(508) 675-7841

Registration is open now with limited seats

This event has ended

Join team POCO this Summer for a web development 101 course and learn about HTML, CSS and JavaScript while developing your online portfolio and resume that will help you land your first web developer job!

Visit the GitHub page for this event and learn about our learning objectives and access the source code.


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