Book review: The Science of Growth is a thought-provoking study of business in the modern age

Venture capitalist Sean Ammirati has salient lessons for entrepreneurs and corporate executives in how to create expectations and manage new products

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 May, 2016, 10:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 May, 2016, 10:01pm

The Science of Growth: How Facebook Beat Friendster – and How Nine Other Startups Left the Rest in the Dust

by Sean Ammirati

St Martin’s Press

3/5 stars

With more than 27 million entrepreneurs in the US and US$128 billion in global venture capital money raised in 2015, the demand for product management guidance is in full swing. The Science of Growth was written by an entrepreneur and venture capitalist Sean Ammirati, an instructor at Carnegie Mellon University who sold his company to LinkedIn.

Ammirati offers up some tried and true practices that are supported by his research methodology described in the introduction. He provides a “data informed” view of companies such as PayPal, Automattic (creator of WordPress), LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. He argues that ruthless prioritisation, among other things, helped these companies beat out their competitors.

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Ammirati does an excellent job incorporating companies that the reader is familiar with to drive home the key takeaways. He tells a story about Coke and Pepsi and how Pepsi was in need of a new bottle design to compete with Coke’s signature 6.5-ounce glass bottle. According to Ammirati, John Sculley, then Pepsi’s CEO, leveraged a “data informed” process that led to the creation of the plastic two-litre bottle.

After noticing in their trials that customers were drinking all of the Pepsi in the smaller bottles, Sculley hypothesised they would increase customer satisfaction by offering larger quantities. It turned out that Wal-Mart loved the new bottle design, too. Because it was made out of durable plastic instead of frail glass, it was no longer at high risk of breaking during transport and deployment. As a result of being “data informed” rather than “data driven”, Pepsi avoided the failure of simply creating a 6.5-ounce bottle with only slight modifications. Instead, they defined an entirely new product category, optimised logistics and reduced a barrier to entry with retailers. These types of thought-provoking anecdotes are a common component scattered throughout the chapters.

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Ammirati walks the reader through early phases of entrepreneurship, beginning with idea validation. He encourages thoughtful analysis of market size and the importance of the first interaction: “The product’s essential benefits can’t be realised if delivered through a horrible experience.”

Ammirati then emphasises the need for “the product to be awesome even with limited features if you really want to validate your assumption about its ultimate success”.

In a space crowded with books on similar topics, The Science of Growth delivers on its promise to “show the secret of ‘the science of growth’ and how to cultivate it in any organisation”.

Through a blend of well-described examples and personal experiences, this book outlines a process that can be repeated across most business sectors. Entrepreneurs, corporate executives and product managers alike could benefit from the lessons in Ammirati’s book.

Tribune News Service