The transition year of 2014 – from developers to customer acquisition specialists #startups

Here’s a prediction for the year 2014 based on talking to over 1400 startup entrepreneurs in 2013.

2014 is going to be the every entrepreneur will start to focus on hiring a “customer acquisition” specialist. This could be someone who can be called a hustler, a growth hacker, a marketing developer or any other title.

What I have realized after looking at over 2800 applications at the Microsoft accelerator and interviewing over 300 entrepreneurs is that they have little idea about how to acquire customers that pay for their solution.

They can do the first 10 customers, but after that, it is a slog or a stall.

They dont have a way to scale their customer growth.

Many developers who stall in their careers will take up growth hacking courses and classes. The reason they will do well is because developers will make the best digital marketers in the next decade.

The #1, #2 and #3 questions I get from entrepreneurs, is trying to find a way to get paying customers.

The #1 question last 2 years was around funding.

That has dropped dramatically this year.

The years prior to 2011 I got most questions around hiring good quality engineers and finding and hiring good engineering talent for startups.

Maybe it is the maturity of the ecosystem, but this is the transition I am seeing.

7 thoughts on “The transition year of 2014 – from developers to customer acquisition specialists #startups”

  1. People try to put too much effort on finding a domain specialist sales..instead they should find good sales professionals who can sell any domain..i come from a successful exit in my past..i was the lonely sales who never had any domain expertise before i started selling..

  2. Glad you mentioned this. It validates our model to some extent. We are working on solving this problem to a certain extent with

    TechChamp stands for Champions of Tech startups, and that is exactly what we are focusing on: finding champions for the startups.

  3. Good to hear this, Mukund! 🙂

    Been working with Small and Medium Businesses on exactly the same issue – customer acquisition beyond their immediate network on users.

  4. can’t agree more, through various projects i am currently involved i see stable increase in requests closer to the end of 2013 within all lead generation activities. Though “growth hacking” is basically lead generation on steroids in some sense..

  5. I agree with your observation that entrepreneurs are moving more towards growth and sales, which is a promising sign.

    I believe the trend will continue… but even further… to the point where entrepreneurs do a better job of using lean principals BEFORE they come up with their next idea.

    I have found that entrepreneurs who interview a target market and identify problems before they come up with an idea, hypothesis or solution have cracked the code to true growth hacking.

    It is amazing how much easier it is to sell a product that was designed and developed to solve the problems of a specific market.

    Nice job on this article, Mukund… and thanks for the follow on Twitter.


  6. Hi Mukund, this is so true, and that is what I am trying to solve by helping B2B entrepreneurs acquire new customers / new markets.

    Some of the questions I have been asking them are –
    • Do you know where your next growth will come from?
    • What steps are you taking to graduate from being self-employed to entrepreneur?
    • What will prepare you better for the long and complex sales cycle?
    • What are the financial goals and what levers would you press to reach there?

    Most of the times I don’t get very convincing answers….my endeavour at is to help them find the same.


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