Startup Grind DC had the pleasure of hosting Paul Allen, the founder of Ancestry.com (not Microsoft), at 1776's campus. Paul's event was a smashing success with almost 120 guests in attendance. Ancestry.com (NASDAQ:ACOM) is the largest geneology provider in the world with almost $400 million in revenues and 1,000 employees.
Paul grew up in Utah, one of eight siblings, learning all about computers and education from his father, eventually trying his hand at being an entrepreneur by building toys out of popsicle sticks and selling them for 50 cents. Paul's creativity was sparked by spending lots of his free time in his youth playing Dungeons & Dragons, which led him to go on and attempt to build other things.
In 1988, Paul graduated from BYU, got married, and embarked on his first job - ever. Paul jumped onboard his brother's small search engine company, Folio, and operated high-tech scanners for 6 months. This led him to become a data processing engineer for the company and fueled his passion for technology and information storage. By working in data, Paul became interested in compiling digital literature works onto CD-ROMs and selling it to schools and computer companies, until eventually his interest in genealogy was piqued.
Paul credits his co-founder with being the excellent sales person, whereas Paul handled most of the research and information systems. Paul admits to spending countless hours in libraries and reading, and became really interested in creating public domain content, but specifically genealogy. The only cost to compile such public domain content was to digitize it, and Paul believed that people were interested enough in learning their genealogy that they would actually pay for that information. Paul immediately became hooked in being an entrepreneur, which was interesting considering business was a foreign concept to Paul due to his family's unspoken disdain for it.
Paul is quite known to be an exceptional "growth hacker," which led to a lot of Ancestry.com's success across the board, especially in customer acquisition. Paul's incredible user growth for Ancestry.com beat that of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. While only 7% of adult Americans actively engage in genealogy, 99% agree that it is important, which helped aid Paul's massive growth numbers. It was much due to his viral marketing tactics before viral marketing was coined; Paul still calls it "genetic marketing."
Paul finished up his chat by naming his top 5 growth hacking tactics (out of 197 total) for startups and entrepreneurs, which are as follows:
1: Viral marketing
Engineer your product so people happen to share your experience or product with others across mobile or social platforms and networks; "make it worth sharing by its very nature."
2: Affiliate marketing
Work with others who can help promote your company and products through commission-based advertising and marketing initiatives; best to work with those who have large pre-existing communities.
3: Pay-per-click marketing
Use AdWords or PPC to increase your message's reach across many different platforms and specific demographics. Use 4-5 word long phrases for the fraction of the cost of 2-3 word long phrases.
4: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Find a way to build a website with hundreds of content-filled pages, public domain or your own. Find ways to link back to these pages and to create user generated content to increase SEO effectiveness.
5: House email list
Use email addresses to your best advantage. Personalize your emails to each user, which can lead to 400% increase in effectiveness. Chop up your email list to separate segments and test subject lines and messages on different groups to see which is more receptive to your consumer audience.
Paul closed by saying his favorite heroes are Bill and Ted from the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, due to their general awesomeness and their ability to overcome great hardships. And their great music (Wild Stallions!!).
WRITTEN BY: CEDRIC CRAIG, Community Manager