—— Timothy C. Draper 硅谷顶尖传奇风险投资家（投资过 Hotmail、Skype、Tesla、Twitter、百度等项目）、德丰杰的创始人和执行董事、“病毒营销”缔造者、“英雄学院”创始人。
在人们眼中，我似乎被誉为第一位“增长黑客”。好吧，这一切皆因 Hotmail 而起。当时两位创始人 Sabeer Bhatia 和 Jack Smith 想出了为人们提供基于网页的免费电子邮件服务的这一点子。项目上线后，我问道：“你们有什么办法将这个全新的免费服务迅速传播到用户那里？”他们看着我，面带茫然，只说出了 Hotmail 会采用传统的广告形式。作为一个仅为他们提供了少量早期资金的投资人，我觉得这样的答案既铺张浪费又缺乏理性。因此我建议，与其继续烧更多钱，不如给互联网上的用户们发一封邮件来自我推广。他们认为这一做法构成了“垃圾邮件”，会引起网民的反感。于是我进一步建言献策，既然我们对外免费提供邮件服务，或许用户会允许我们在邮件底部写点什么来打个小广告，比如“附言：我爱你，你可以到 Hotmail 获得免费电子邮箱”。
我遭到了两位创始人的几轮白眼，这个点子本身也的确颇具争议。谢天谢地，好在他们最终决定放手一试，但把广告内容简化成了“你可以到 Hotmail 注册免费电子邮件”。我很高兴他们迈出了这一步，但直到今天，我依然觉得如果保留当初的“附言：我爱你”几个字，对用户会更加友善一些。
无论如何，这个策略成功地帮助了产品以几何级数传播。随后 Steve Jurvetson 和我根据产品传播具有类似病毒的特质，而创造了“病毒营销”这个专业术语。在此之前我们曾考虑过用“有机营销”这个名字，但显然那不够酷。
在那之后，成百上千的公司决定采用病毒营销的方式来传播他们的产品。我们的公司 Four 11 最先进行了借鉴，随后他们被雅虎收购而成为了 YahooMail。许多其他的电子邮件服务也相继加入进来，包括 Gmail、Applemail 等。然而这个点子释放的力量远不只如此，任何基于通讯交流的产品都可以采用它。我投资了 Skype，而他的创始人就将其成功地运用到了音频产品和随后的视频产品推广中。
顺带一提，Skype 的第一次视频通话，是身处爱沙尼亚塔林市的我和 Niklas Zennstrom（Skype 的创始人）进行的一场面试，对方是来自帕罗奥多的 Tony Perkins。Skype 的工程师硬是挤出了一万条 Skype 音频通话并发线路的带宽，来确保我们的整个视频通话过程完美顺畅。看起来，一名创业者如果真的想做成一件事情，那么似乎任何事情都是可能发生的。
It seems I am credited with being the first “Growth Hacker.” Well, it all began with Hotmail. The two founders, Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith started Hotmail with the idea of giving away free web-based email. When they launched, I asked, “How will you get this new free service to spread to customers?” They looked at me a little blankly, saying Hotmail would use traditional forms of advertising, which to me, an investor who had funded the company with very little money, seemed extravagant and irrational. So, rather than doing anything that would require more money, I suggested just blasting an email to all of the people on the internet. They then explained that that would be “spamming,” a practice frowned on by the internet community. Then I suggested that since we were giving away email that the customers might be willing to spread the word for us by allowing us to ；put a message at the bottom of every email sent saying, “P.S. I love you, get your free email at Hotmail.”
I got several eye rolls from the founders, and the idea was somewhat contentious, but to their credit, they decided to give it a try, but the message would simply say, “Get your free email at Hotmail.” I was delighted that they decided to try it, but to this day, I believe we would have had a more peaceful and loving world if they had kept the “P.S. I love you” message.
Anyway, the message spread exponentially, and Steve Jurvetson and I coined the marketing term for what I had created as “viral marketing” since the product would spread like a virus. We had considered “organic marketing” as a name, but it didn’t have as much of a kick.
Then, rather than patent the idea, I decided it was better to give the idea away to the world. So much good could be accomplished if products could be spread exponentially through this electronic word of mouth. Marketing could be accomplished with far less money.
So, after that, hundreds of companies decided to use viral marketing to spread their products. Our company Four 11, which became YahooMail was the first, followed by many others in the email category, Gmail, Applemail, and many others. But the idea was much more powerful than that. Any product that was communications based started using viral marketing. I invested in Skype, and the founders of Skype implemented several viral elements in growing their audio business and even more when Skype video was introduced.
Incidentally, the first Skype video call involved Niklas Zennstrom and me doing an interview from Tallin, Estonia with Tony Perkins in Palo Alto. The Skype engineers cut off 100,000 simultaneous Skype audio calls to get enough bandwidth to create a nearly flawless video call for us. It seems when an entrepreneur wants to make something happen, anything is possible.
So, from viral marketing evolved social media, email blasting, marketing magnets, gaming customer rankings on search engines, crowd sourcing, and the collaborative marketplaces, all what have now been coined “growth hacking,” the topic for this book.
Every piece of software, website, program, app, and novel new product, whether digital or physical, is, will be or should be involved in growth hacking. The goal of course is to market products liberally throughout the world with little or no cost of distribution. I have seen many of these growth hacks in action with companies I have met with. In fact, at this point, when I look to evaluate new company proposals, I look as much at how the company is approaching its growth hack as I do how it is approaching its product or service.
By Timothy C. Draper
—— 张溪梦 GrowingIO 创始人、美国前十大数据科学家、前 LinkedIn 商务分析团队缔造者