Driving growth through focused experimentation
Growing a new company is not easy. You haven’t figured out all the angles yet, and you always have the looming threat of running out of runway. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Brent about his growth journey, how he leveraged Experimentation to ensure his most recent company, Hoppier, continued its growth trajectory, and how he’s never watched a hockey game.
Editor’s note: This interview was held prior to recent world events. Like many around the world who have been impacted by COVID-19, Brent is now open to new opportunities. Please check out his LinkedIn profile here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brent-jensen/
Rommil: Hey Brent — How’s it going? Thanks for chatting with me today!
Brent: Great, Rommil. Thanks for inviting me to chat with you.
So let’s start with you. Could you share with us a bit about your journey and what you do now?
I recently finished my undergrad (actually haven’t even walked the stage yet) at the University of Ottawa and now I’m working in Growth for Hoppier. This all started about 2 years ago when Hoppier was actually called Desk Nibbles.
Yes! I remember that name! Ha! Sorry, go on.
I got hired on as employee #7 through a co-op program and basically hopped around from sales to sales ops to customer success and finally landed in growth after taking a course offered by Julian Shapiro’s Demand Curve which set me up with digital/growth marketing know-how. I’ve been focused on growth for roughly a year now.
In my role, part of what I’m responsible for is organizing the experiments that we run in the different teams and managing the insights we gather. The other side of this is growth marketing. I’ll typically take on my own experiments that are related to top of the funnel metrics and customer acquisition.
For those who don’t know, what is Hoppier and how long have they been around?
Hoppier is a marketplace built for offices to order items like snacks, drinks, fruit, and office supplies directly from suppliers. We’ve added tons of features for offices that make ordering simple. Some of our features allow users to automate and manage multiple orders.
“The whole point of experiments is to learn about the market you operate in so you can deliver a better product or experience and generate revenue as a by-product.”
So I see your degree is in Political Science. What are some of the biggest differences between PoliSci and Experimentation/Growth?
I don’t think they’re directly comparable like that. What PoliSci is concerned with complements experimentation/growth. PoliSci asks questions like “why does X country take stance A on this issue?”. It can be very high-level in the types of questions it asks but gets very detailed in the way it answers them. An answer to the question might be the cultural values of country x, or it might be a history of famine/war which has made them take a specific stance on an issue. The whole point of PoliSci is to understand the interests of actors to inform your actions to get the outcome you want. When running growth experiments you’re doing so in the context of a market that is made of segments, each of which has their interests. The whole point of experiments is to learn about the market you operate in so you can deliver a better product or experience and generate revenue as a by-product. PoliSci isn’t a process, it’s a way of understanding groups. It lends itself to growth/experimentation through its analysis of the interests of groups of people which can help you run better experiments, learn more about your customers, and position yourself better for success.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as you grow Hoppier and what role has Experimentation played in helping overcome them?
So, we changed our model in 2019 from a subscription box service to the online marketplace which meant having to build an online marketplace. Moving from a rather simple service to a new model of service coupled with a digital product meant a whole new set of problems to face. Really what we had was an idea, or a hypothesis, of what type of solution market was going to respond to. Running experiments let us validate our ideas which were essentially solving these new problems we faced.
“Experimenting is just a logical next step in cultures that value learners/learning.”
Would you say Hoppier has a Culture of Experimentation? What makes you think that?
I definitely think we do, but this is a product of another cultural trait we have at Hoppier; being learners. We love discovering new things and using them to drive value. Experimenting is just a logical next step in cultures that value learners/learning.
“There are so many things that you could do but you really need to focus on what’s going to make an impact.”
How do you maintain that Culture while driving aggressive Growth?
There are so many things that you could do but you really need to focus on what’s going to make an impact. If you’re testing a bunch of things, you won’t be able to go deep on a specific insight or area and you might even mess up the experiments entirely if you do too many at once! One of the great things about being a small team is the incredible focus on what matters.
How many Experiments do you run per week?
We run growth experiments on 2-week sprints across marketing, sales, and product teams. On average each team can run anywhere from 1–3 experiments that attack a specific metric at a specific stage of our funnel.
What tools do you guys use to run your Experiments?
We keep it pretty simple when it comes to running experiments. We use Mixpanel for in-app analytics and Google Analytics for pretty much everything else. Our experiment process essentially lives in Notion and we connect everything through Zapier.
What are the Experimentation and Growth scenes like in Ottawa?
Unfortunately, it’s somewhat lacking. There aren’t many organizations of growth specific people/leaders fostering an environment for the role. I think part of that has to do with the fact that Ottawa is mostly Federal public servants. That said, there are tons of very smart and successful people at companies like Shopify, Klipfolio, and Fellow that you can tap individually. Maybe I should get something started 🤔
Oh, you most definitely should. If I’m ever in town, I’ll definitely drop by to say hi!
Let’s change gears. It’s time for the Lightning Round!
If you couldn’t live in Ottawa, where would you live and why?
Hands-down, Austin. I played guitar for nearly 6 years and really appreciate the music that comes from there, so I’d go mostly for the music scene. Also, there’s a huge tech/startup presence which makes it attractive from a work perspective. I think that City would strike the best work/life balance for me.
Redblacks or Senators?
Redblacks (I’ve actually never even been to a hockey game 😅)
I’m just going to pause here. In shock. LOL. OK moving on. What is your favourite snack?
I’m definitely qualified to answer this one. I’m a sucker for chocolate covered almonds.
Classic. I respect that.
Describe Brent in exactly 5 words.
“Just a heads-down learner”
It’s been fun chatting with you, Brent!
And for those who would like to reach out to Brent, you can find his contact info on his site: https://www.brent-jensen.com/
Brent, thank you!
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