Growth Hacks: From 32 to 1000+ Employees: Validating Product Market Fit, Defining a North Star Metric & more

Growth Hacks: From 32 to 1000+ Employees: Validating Product Market Fit, Defining a North Star Metric & more

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From 32 to 1000+ Employees: Validating Product Market Fit, Defining a North Star Metric & more

I recently shared my growth journey at Skyscanner from 32 to 1000+ employees. Now I’d like share more about validating product market fit, unifying teams with a North Star Metric, engaging broader teams for company-wide growth, and — if you’re curious to know — what’s next for me in my journey.

Validating Product Market Fit at Skyscanner

International companies operate in a global competitive environment and each market, feature, and channel may be specific to the locale. If you want to achieve product market fit, faster, you need to enable market-level configuration and work on a democratisation of product experimentation.

Product market fit in my view is, simply put, enabling your product to meet, empathetically, local users’ needs.

How do I know if I achieved product market fit in a given market?

Certainly retention rates speak louder than other metrics, but given the complexity of the variables included in the product market concept, you may want to take into account both internal and external metrics.

  • Internal metrics can be a chosen set amongst AARRR metrics. For example, you could pick organic and/or paid acquisition YOY growth, activation rate and retention rate, NPS or referral rate and revenue growth and score them against a predefined set of points.
  • External metrics that define your PMF are around the market nature and idiosyncrasy, market size and growth, level of competition, overall revenue generated in your sector, etc. For example, if you provide a price comparison service but the market is not fragmented enough as there is a monopoly of one or 2 providers, there is not much ground for a meta-search or comparison service product, let alone product market fit.

At Skyscanner we developed an in-house Product Market Fit tool that allowed us to automatically score product market fit and track progress against it, enabling easy comparison between markets and regional trends.

One key take-away is that, from a growth organisation perspective, you have to tackle two problems when addressing product market fit:

  1. The theoretical framework: understanding how you define and measure product market fit.
  2. The practice: enabling your regional teams to do user research and experimentation easily and faster through building product feature configurability.

Defining a North Star Metric at Skyscanner

As part of our journey to become a first-in-class growth organisation, we implemented AARRR metrics and spent time defining and enabling more reliable access to this data.

However, every team and market had different, important metrics and there was a need for what would become a North Star Metric, a directional reference to unify all efforts. This perfectly aligned with the notion of the multi-sided marketplace that Skyscanner became.

As I shared during the GrowthHackers Conference, Skyscanner’s North Star metric was identified as TTV (i.e. total transaction value — how much travel we facilitated, both for travelers and partners).

It’s not an easy task to find a North Star Metric that works for an entire business, let alone define it clearly and operationalise it.

A large effort our Growth Strategy team did was to create a tool that made it very easy to simulate scenarios and understand the impact each potential growth activity (or commercial or product…) could have on growing the North Star Metric.

Defining a North Star Metric and using the “North Star Metric modeling tool” was important to Skyscanner because it:

  1. Encouraged people to spot and come up with new growth ideas in relation to this metric.
  2. Enabled them to prioritise these ideas based on impact on the North Star Metric.
  3. Educated people to better justify and communicate changes in strategy and tactics more clearly, with a shared reference to a common objective: increasing our North Star Metric.

Incorporating Broader Team Engagement for Growth

In my view, growth needs to be a mindset before it can be implemented as structure. Having a solid change management and educational programme is essential to bring people with you in a transformation.

I was working with great leaders and other brilliant growth managers that helped with change management and building an in-house Growth Hacking programme. This applied growth course helped team members become growth hackers and included marketing, analytics, engineering, product and commercial fundamentals.

Theory helped, but enabling the practice was key. Optimisation, learning from failures and upskilling people to use our experimentation platform, and implementing a “growth factory” that was “packaging” the right experiments, were methods we used to incorporate the broader team into growth.

Last but not least, our unified and coherent leadership shared clear growth principles and positively reinforced progress, essential for achieving broader team participation.

Building a Growth Culture

Culture is a deep and complex topic, but to summarise a few aspects, I recommend working on the following to build a growth culture:

  • Re-define a competencies framework to define personal growth and progress against changed expectations (from marketing or product to growth).
  • Change the interview process to consider the type and quality of interviews and tasks given to candidates. Implement a customised version of the “bar raiser” practice for all growth hires.
  • Create an ad hoc Growth Hacking programme to include rewards/badges for people who complete the course (yellow/black belt for example).
  • Create an internal and external comms strategy to create a platform to share about growth to an internal and external audience; confronting yourself with peers and encourage your team to do the same via conferences, online courses and events.
  • Social events like dedicated evening meetups to share your growth practice and organised to gather a mixed audience work well for recruitment and to reinforce the good job done by teams.

What’s Next in My Growth Journey

I’ve had the privilege of working with great people and achieving good results for different startups. I’ve experienced a startup’s entire journey from very early days to post-acquisition, going through several 10x moments, various promotions and steep learning curves.

It has been a tough but rewarding journey in which I crafted my own personal growth and, hopefully, enabled that of many others. I also had great luck to learn from supportive and inspiring leaders and am conscious that this type of journey isn’t very common in the internet economy biz.

Many people jump from one company to another, they stop for a year or two and then move horizontally to a similar industry that pays better or a similar growth phase of a different industry, that also pays better, but lacking exposure to the full learning cycle.

After a phenomenal journey at Skyscanner, I’ve decided to take a little time out and focus on a few different projects before taking up other permanent roles. I want to apply and grow the learnings from the start-up to post-acquisition journey and from previous successes and failures to other ventures.

Now, I’m working on a few things:

  • Helping a startup building an app called “Around Sound”, originally set up by a dear friend and ex-colleague, Rachel Evatt, whose idea is simple but powerful. Around Sound is an app where sound clips and audio memories can be easily captured, revisited and shared. We’re building our prototype on Android as a private beta within the Playstore. To validate and test the idea we’re targeting parents of young children to start with, more to come!
  • Helping a couple of start-up projects in Singapore who proactively reached out to me, one working on a blockchain technology-based idea and the other on growth leadership for very busy CFOs.
  • Exploring the thrill of house-hunting and flat-for-rent investments in a growing and marvellous city like Barcelona!

I’m also assessing longer term full-time positions, but without rush, as I’ll enjoy a bit of sabbatical time to recharge first.

Outside of Work

Music is my real passion. I used to play in an all-female rock band and still enjoy the sound of a good electric or fingerstyle acoustic guitar. ☺
Full disclosure: I love Tommy Emmanuel, Franco Morone, Tool, Led Zeppelin.

I also love traveling, meeting new people, and discovering new places, food, and cultures.


From 32 to 1000+ Employees: Validating Product Market Fit, Defining a North Star Metric & more was originally published in Growth Hackers on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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