Growth Hacking – Rapid Growth Through Creative Ideas

Growth Hacking is often used in connection with start-ups. It describes a marketing technique based on technical know-how and above all on creativity, with the primary goal of company growth. The term growth hacker was mentioned by Sean Ellis in a blog post in 2010 and subsequently spread to the digital industry.

A mixture of marketer and programmer – this is how growth hackers are often described. Programming skills are not necessarily required. Rather, the aim is to avoid classic ways and channels and to grow very quickly and/or at low cost. Growth Hacking depends primarily on the ideas and abilities of individuals.

The best way to explain how growth hacking can work is by using examples:

  • Airbnb: The accommodation portal added the possibility for users of their own platform to automatically place their offers on, which was already established and very popular in the USA. Airbnb was able to benefit significantly from the extended range. This required a complex self-programmed interface. Today it is assumed that this Growth Hack has significantly influenced the growth of the company.
  • Dropbox: The users of Dropbox received additional web space when they recommended Dropbox to their friends and if these signed up. From today’s point of view nothing unusual, but the incentive method was new at that time and made the rapid growth of the company possible.
  • Hotmail: On the initiative of investor Timothy Draper, the e-mail service decided to send the signature “PS I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail”. That way the message spread without any additional costs.


The three examples show how different Growth Hacking can work. While at Airbnb the technical development of an interface promoted growth, at Dropbox it was an incentive program. Hotmail, on the other hand, has opened up a new free communication channel.

Growth Hacking in Practice

To be honest, the same examples of successful growth hacking can be read over and over again, which leads to the conclusion that it is rare to achieve a significant leap in company growth. Despite the minimal chances of this one “hack” changing everything, the basic idea is a very useful way of thinking about one’s own business model and growth opportunities. Questioning traditional ways and channels and seeking new approaches can be beneficial in most companies. Hiring growth hackers and waiting for the big shot will rarely be successful. Rather, entrepreneurial thinking and working should be established in the long term as part of the corporate culture and it should not be limited to marketers or programmers.

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