When people ask me what inspired my startup thinking I point to Paul Stamatiou. He was an undergrad at Georgia Tech when I was there and I started following his blog as part of my preemptive reference experiment. Wow, 2005 was so long ago!
Paul currently works at Twitter but before that he was involved with a handful of startups. Along the way Ford gave him a car, Nike put him in a commercial, and he was part of the Y Combinator program. He’s blogged quite a bit about startups. If you’re interested that topic I recommend reading his advice via a TechCrunch post.
I dug up this old post of mine from 2008 chronicling Paul’s all-nighter in the library. What was the paper topic? Twitter. Maybe he was destined to work there…
Here is a quick interview on growth, startups, and the Web. Follow him @stammy
What have you been up to? Tell me about your career trajectory.
I graduated from Georgia Tech  with a degree in Computational Media, which for lack of a smaller description I describe as a hybrid of computer science and design. However, I did not really get into programming as a hobby until my first year of college — considerably later than most everyone else that joins the tech/startup scene. Sure I tinkered with electronics a ton (I actually began college as a EE major) but I quickly saw the power of the web and switched majors.
I cofounded my first startup while in college and received some funding from the university themselves. I ended up moving to San Francisco with no plans — by that time I had more friends in the bay area and had been itching to move out. Over the last 2.5 years I ended up joining a friend as cofounder in a startup called Notifo, and then another one called Picplum. So more or less working on my own startups for the last ~5 years.
Any now you’re at Twitter? What do you do there?
I’m an Experience Designer. During my day-to-day I work exclusively with the Growth Team. What that means is I end up working on a faster cycle iterating on product and looking to optimize certain metrics, rather than the typically longer design process.
How did you end up working at Twitter?
Twitter actually reached out to me a few months ago — after talking with various folks there it seemed like working on the Growth Team would be the perfect fit for me. I love tinkering and working on various aspects of a large product. And for me the biggest kicker is working at a fast growing company (the fastest growing social platform) and being able to have a direct impact on its trajectory.
I’m been into growth hacking, let’s talk about that. Is it a process or a mindset? How are you designing growth?
Many bloggers try to post on growth hacking as a process for doing things faster and measuring everything, but I really think it’s a mindset about approaching product development with no assumptions. I mean designing without hunches where possible. A lot of product development at my past startups was because I thought feature X or Y seemed cool or useful, sometimes based on very limited qualitative user feedback.
The way I’ve changed that is by first looking for user research to support new development and if I don’t have that, scoping the feature to be small enough where it’s okay to spend a few days and ship something in order to get more data that might support moving further in that direction. Basically, not biting off more than you can chew without reason and not getting caught in very long development cycles for product where it’s unsure if it will aid growth and retention.
If you had to pinpoint one thing—one metric, one tool, or one strategy—what’s the most powerful component for growth?
I’m not sure about this being the end all of growth, but one area I love focusing on is user retention. So many people completely ignore this part of the customer lifecycle.
How do you imagine the Web or Internet evolving over the next few years?
Everyone says that the next decade is all about mobile this and mobile that. I absolutely agree with that in the near term but I think the next decade we will see the importance of being “global first.” Getting to a position with your product where you can more readily push it out to larger audiences. Thinking about internationalization earlier, et cetera.
A look behind the scenes at Twitter.