Hyperscaling at Speed: Insights From Airbnb, Spotify, Shippo, Others

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Hyperscaling at Speed: Insights From Airbnb, Spotify, Shippo, Others

Businesses that enter hypergrowth mode face challenges across all aspects of the organization—from technology, sales, marketing and more—but importantly, it affects the core of the company, its customers. If companies don’t scale fast enough, they lose their industry-leading position and somebody else gets to enjoy the spoils of their unique idea. If they scale too fast, they risk operation inefficiencies and a disjointed customer experience. So how can today’s scale-ups move quickly to outpace the competition but ensure that the process is frictionless? This eWEEK slide show presents insights from Voxpro’s recent “Hyper-Scaling at Speed” event, where senior executives from the San Francisco Bay Area tech community, including Airbnb, Asana, Spotify and others, shared best practices, key insights, and tips to scale quickly and efficiently.

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Defining Hypergrowth Mode

The term “hypergrowth” first appeared in the April 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review, which defined it as “the steep part of the S-curve that most young markets and industries experience at some point, where the winners get sorted from the losers.” The companies that achieve hypergrowth are able to ride up and over that wave. It might be a bumpy ride, but they’re able to adapt and move quickly enough to continue onward. Most companies, however, get wiped out.

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Service-Oriented Architecture Is Important

“Knowing your system architecture is important as you scale, and using microservices (a style that structures an application as a collection of loosely coupled services) is a good option as you’re hyperscaling. Traditionally, if you’re rolling out updates and there’s an error three versions back, you’d have to roll back every version since that rollout. However, with microservices, you can simply roll back the one system with errors, limiting the amount of downtime to your customers.”  –Tim Trampedach, director of products at LendUp

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Hire Connections, Not Referrals

“When you move quickly, things aren’t going to be perfect. If you can accept that as a fast-growing startup, it allows you to focus on what matters most—hiring the right people. When looking to scale, it’s important that you’re not just hiring someone you know, but rather, how they can connect you with their network. This becomes especially important as you’re looking to expand internationally to new markets to help you with the local language, cultural differences and norms.”  –Jeff Stone, vice president of customer success, Shippo

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Have a Compelling Story Backed by a Data-Driven Plan

“Having a solid foundation is key to success when growing quickly. It may seem like there’s not enough time to build this foundation, but it is necessary to ensure success. Building a narrative of where you want to go—and backing that with a data-driven plan—will help you bring along key stakeholders that will be influential in helping you achieve your goals. Always have a contingency plan and be thinking about what can go wrong. If you have a contingency plan in place, it empowers you to keep moving—no matter what happens.”  –Kristen Hollenkamp, head of global sales programs, Airbnb

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Onboarding Is Key to Adoption

“If your customers can’t figure out how to use your product, you’ll never be able to scale. Having a solid onboarding plan is a big key to adoption. Invest in the right infrastructure for user education. That means having the right content and distribution channels to reach your customers. Invest early in these materials and update frequently, because customer wants and needs are always changing. Figure out from where your best customer insights are coming and set up a listening post there. If customer experience matters to your company, you need to cultivate those insights or you can’t execute.”  –Brian Boroff, head of customer success and user ops, Asana

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Autonomous Teams Lead to Innovations

“People are self-motivated and want to do great work. Inspire your teams by instituting a supporting (not reporting) structure within your organization. Distributed thinking across the organization brings out the best and most innovative ideas. For example, Spotify has App Week, where we let our engineers do anything they want—from carbonating fruit to coming up with the idea for ‘Discovery Weekly.’ Give each team a mission, metrics and the responsibility, cross-functionally and autonomy to deliver results. Decisions are made best in real time, which is the only way to scale rapidly.” –Kristian Lindwall, site lead engineering, Spotify

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Whether your company is in hyperscale mode or not, give your teams the tools, latitude, encouragement and backup necessary to get the job done effectively for your customers. That’s really all that matters in the long run.

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