Forget the Harvard MBAs; 5 free alternatives to learning how to Growth Hack your startup

October 30, 2015
8 min read

There is a famous quote that is attributed to Albert Einstein:

“Once you stop learning, you start dying”.

Growth hacking lessons from Albert Einstein
However, for many startup founders with limited skills in growth hacking, dedicating time to pursue this new knowledge is tough. Usually, this is due to the fact that you are often busy with operations and tactical deliveries. And this is the kind of “busyness” that unfortunately results in tunnel vision which can make innovative ideas pass you by if you are not learning new things.

Oftentimes, it suffices to have a bird's eye view of what it takes to grow so that you can quantify the tactical decision that your team executes on.

So how do you become an expert on startup growth without pursuing an expensive MBA or an International degree which may be totally unrealistic for you right now……while still getting the result you desire?


Thankfully, there are ways

The good news is that there are several ways you can hack your learning curves. In this post, I hope to share how you can hack your personal development and in turn your startup. Though it is not as easy as you may think; this will get you started.

Increase your reading speed

One of the first things is to increase the pace of your learning in order to absorb new information. Your reading speed determines how much information you can consume and comprehend. So it is a good idea to look for a quick win in your reading routine.

This blog outlined the four key approaches to increase your reading speed and comprehension. The reputable lifestyle blogger and author of the FourHourWeek, Tim Ferris, hinted that there are Scientific Speed Reading techniques to increase reading speed by 300% in 20 minutes. You can check out his long essay or his recently released video for inspirations on speed reading.

Create email filter to get all your new learnings to a category

I used to feel frustrated looking in my email tray for helpful emails I can learn from. Sometimes they get lost in the heap of emails I get daily and I feel awful.

Here is what I do now. I create filters in my Gmail account. It looks like this.

how to filter email for personal growth

When you create filters, it easy for you to sort your emails into categories automatically and locate the emails you want to access later. Creating filters is easy. You can create filters following this Wiki guideline or this post on Mashable.

Create bookmarks in your favourite web browser

To have a coordinated learning, you can gather some of the things you find helpful across the same categories together. For example, you can follow these guidelines to create bookmarks to neatly file all your favourite posts to one location with Mozilla Firefox or Chrome. Or you can fire up tools like Evernote and Pocket which are awesome “read-it-later apps”

Create an Influencers List on Twitter

The right Twitter list can help you find, monitor and interact with the right people easily.

When you create a List, one of its several goals is to help you keep up with the latest news and trends on Twitter without getting distracted by irrelevant tweets. You also keep track of the leaders in your industry by putting them into one powerful list.

This will help you to better organize your Twitter experience. For example, I have been included on several people’s lists about Growth hacking on Twitter, as an influencer.

Twitter influencer list - Growth hacking

Here is a complete guide that discusses how to create an influencer list on twitter.

One challenge is to know which influencer to follow. Tools like Topsy, Shortstack can help you to effectively build a twitter power list. To get started, you can refer to this resource.

Organize your learning around sources of inspiration

The internet contains a lot of information. It is your responsibility to sieve them into meaningful curriculum to drive your growth. This starts with knowing where to get relevant information.

To help you get started, below are areas you can focus on.

Technology Blogs

You will find out that reading Technology or industry blogs can be invaluable to the growth of your business. The following technology websites are quite useful to track Inspiration for ideas and occasional hacks from other startups

*For full disclosure, I contribute to both TechCabal and TechPoint as a columnist.

Personal Blogs

Quick Sprout -

No one has invested as much as Neil Patel in content creation, especially the Advanced Guides that you can find on his blog. Expect to read exhaustive guides from everything covering conversion, traffic, and social media and so on.

Neil himself is a co-founder of 2 major startups: KissMetrics and CrazyEgg, both analytics SaaS platforms.

Jason Njoku's Blog -

Jason has earned himself the title of the “Nigerian internet poster boy” since he was covered by Sarah Lacy for his startup, iROKOtv. His narrative about business, his startup and life generally on his tumblr blog is worth reading.

Jason’s views on issues are worth its gold and he shares them “freely” on his blog.

Noah Kagan -

Noah Kagan is a quant based marketing guru. Specifically, he was employee No.30 at Facebook and No.4 at Mint (a multi-million dollar personal finance startup) before founding Appsumo which he grew to 700,000+ subscribers and SumoMe; his free listing building tool with over 1 billion downloads.

Peep Laja -

There are three conversion optimization blogs on my list; but this is easily the first. My typical blogging style is a chip of his style: detailed and usually long words. Peep Laja runs MarketIt; a conversion optimization agency. He’s got so much good content over at ConversionXL.

Andrew Chen -

Andrew Chen runs one of the few blogs worth reading with useful research and insight about the latest methods for building and retaining web audiences, internet advertising, viral marketing, web analytics, social networks, online games, and all kinds of web glitter.

He is the master of virality and getting users addicted to your product. He writes Essays on tech, growth, and startups. He has expansive experience with highly funded startups in senior roles as advisor/investor and Entrepreneur-in-Residence.

Nir Eyal Blog -

On his blog, Nir discusses the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. It encompasses user experience, behavioral economics, and a dash of neuroscience.

In addition to his blog, Nir recently published his book, Hooked (it is a guide to building habit-forming technology, written for product managers, designers, marketers, and startup founders)


This is a blog focused on SEO Training and Link Building Strategies.

Backlinko has grown into one of the most popular SEO sites on the web where Brian Dean publishes super actionable tips designed to help you get more traffic, leads and customers.

Last year, Brian coined the Skyscraper techniques and other highly successful approaches to SEO and content marketing tactics that is applicable for startups’ growth.

skyscraper technique Brian Dean of startup growthHiten’s SaaS Weekly -

Hiten is Neil Patel’s co-founder and a reputable growth hacking personality. He curates the web’s best information on SaaS businesses and delivers a weekly email of useful links to subscribers.

Corporate Blogs

First Round Review -

First Round Review is published by First Round Capital: a seed-stage venture firm focused on building a vibrant community of technology entrepreneurs and companies.

With the first round review, you can get in-depth breakdown of the success stories of startups that have been previously funded by First Round. The Review is about liberating knowledge to inspire and accelerate action by sharing powerful, untapped knowledge from experts that can transform the way people build technology.

Vero Blog

The Vero blog shares in-depth Email Marketing Best Practices and Resources. The team at Vero has invested a lot of resources to help you get email marketing right. Each insightful post is filled with data and examples to help you reconsider how you can use email to successfully market your products and services.

The content team is led by Jimmy Dally who also curates a SwipeFile which I have found quite interesting

Groove Blog

The groove blog is run by his founder and CEO, Alex Turnbull who, being a non-technical founder shares insights about customer service delivery, running SaaS startups, gaining tractions, managing team. In the blog he details his journey to revenue $500k MRR.

Video Resources

TED Talks -

TED is a global community with a single mission to spread ideas. It is a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers.

TED Talks - growth hacking

If you are interested in Business and Technology talks, you can start from here and be inspired

YouTube -

It is obvious that I should mention YouTube.

One of the videos I have found really useful was presented by Sam Altman, the President of YCombinator. It was recorded at the StartUp school of 2014. You can access it here.

startup school Sam Altman YCombinator

Online Courses

You can take free (or paid) courses on online platforms like:

  • Lynda – Learn business, software, technology and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals.
  • CreativeLive – Online classes for creative individuals
  • Udemy – Regarded as Netflix of Education where you can meet expert tutor on any subject
  • Coursera – FREE courses in partnerships with top universities and organizations
  • CIB – a Nigerian online learning site
  • edEX – Founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University

Learning Communities

Helpful learning opportunities include presentations sites like Slideshare orforum like:

  1. Quora,
  2. Medium
  3. Radar


In his book, The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talked about the 10,000 hours of practice, if you spend the next 10,000 hours (obviously less) to organize your personal development around specific areas that are important to the growth of your startup, you are bound to get a positive ROI.

So, you can skip the Harvard MBAs, advanced MIT trainings or a certificate from Wharton by hacking your personal development.

Will you take the challenge?

This post originally appeared on The SpokenTwice blog. 

Photo Credit: Thomas Favre-Bulle via Compfight cc

Wole Ogunlade is a business growth strategist for early-stage startups and consultants in Nigeria. As co-founder of, he is passionate about agTech platforms in Nigeria. You can download his free ebook + email course, “11 Secrets of Startup Growth” for free on his personal blog,
Wole Ogunlade is a business growth strategist for early-stage startups and consultants in Nigeria. As co-founder of, he is passionate about agTech platforms in Nigeria. You can download his free ebook + email course, “11 Secrets of Startup Growth” for free on his personal blog,
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Wole Ogunlade is a business growth strategist for early-stage startups and consultants in Nigeria. As co-founder of, he is passionate about agTech platforms in Nigeria. You can download his free ebook + email course, “11 Secrets of Startup Growth” for free on his personal blog,

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