Awesome People - Ep 40

Product design, gamification, and we're launching a talent accelerator!

Hi founders and fellow VC Friends!

Each week we deliver one awesome person to your inbox. These are the people you need to know—the marketers, sales gurus, engineers, ops wizzes— who give your startup superpowers 🚀. The best part is, everyone is hireable on a part-time basis.

This episode is jam-packed! Here’s what on the docket:

Please meet Kendall, Your Product and Gamification Expert 🎮

I met Kendall via Maddy Nguyen, an ex-Uber and Snapchat recruiter who now has her own startup, Talentdrop. This was an A+ intro and I feel like Awesome People stumbled upon gold. Kendall has 10+ years of experience in the game industry designing high performing user flows and writing engaging copy. He's worked on huge games like Halo and ran the global launch of Arena of Valor, the largest revenue grossing game franchise in the world. The gaming industry is world-class at monetizing users and building addicting products that people love. Now he helps tech startups gamify their products and adopt the narrative best practices used by the gaming industry. For fun, he invests in indie games and is the head writer at an animation studio.

He's trusted by Microsoft (Halo 4), Tencent (Honor of Kings, $5B in global revenue), and Mya (a conversational AI recruitment platform that’s raised $50M from Emergence, Foundation, and more).

You can hire him to:

  • make your user flows more engaging

  • add game design and gamification to your software experiences

  • refine your brand story and copy

Need some product and design TLC? Let me know and I’ll connect you to Kendall!

He was gracious enough to share some pro-tips with us here 🤩 

Gamify your KPIs

Most early-stage companies watch their KPIs like hawks as they search for product-market fit. Defining KPIs is important. But it’s more important to plan how to hit your KPIs. How do you get your users to do what you want?

From a game design perspective, I learned that behavior = action sustained over time. That means you need to focus on two things: how do you get users to perform the desired actions, and how do you get them to habituate those actions?

One major aspect of game design is understanding what players want and their motivations. Motivations can be grouped across four major psychology types:

  1. Achievers

  2. Explorers

  3. Socializers

  4. Competitors 

These motivations don’t just apply to games-- you can categorize all human activity like this! Put yourself in your user’s place. How might they find the motivation to perform the activities that you want them to perform? 

Let’s say that one of your KPIs is virality: for every signup on your site, you’d like to see 1 additional signup as an indication of virality. Some users will be motivated by rewards. Dropbox gave users more storage for inviting others. It worked wonderfully. With a well-known design firm, I helped a client build a series of badges that were unlocked at unique thresholds: five, ten, and fifteen shares. The client saw a dramatic increase in user-driven sharing, which allowed them to grow without spending too much of their precious seed funding on user acquisition. Incentivizing users to take the actions you want in the app -- and rewarding them for it -- isn’t just good game design; it’s good design, period. 

Define what success means in concert with your software design process

Building successful software from ground zero is all about hypothesis testing.

After discussing an exciting game design, I immediately say, “Ok, how do we prove this is fun?” The answers define the success criteria of the prototype. All testing and iterating is geared towards answering those questions. 

You can swap out “fun” for “engaging,” “sticky,” or the desired response you want from users. Whether it’s SaaS or B2B, every piece of software has goals relevant to the business’s success. Define success criteria upfront. How will you prove something works? Definition cuts waste out of the software design process and can save you weeks or even months of frustrating ambiguity. It forces you to focus on your users, their behaviors, and validating your assumptions. 

Get precise with user testing

I wouldn’t quite call it a rule (ok, maybe I will), but a great game is virtually impossible to build without playtesting. The more iterations that a game undergoes via playtesting, the better it gets. The same can be said for all software.

Often user tests don’t yield actionable data, waste time, and create endless debate about the right course of action—especially when the software is early. Runway is too valuable to waste! Set context for your users when they’re testing your product. Tell them to share exactly what they’re feeling as they use your product. Take this to the next level by making your questions very precise and intentional (something I learned while running Microsoft’s internal user testing on Halo 4). “How did you feel when using the app” is very different from “On a scale of 1-5, rate how clearly you understood the app’s opening screen.” You can even employ these tests internally—again, something we did on Halo—and having objective data helps at every stage of development.

Want an intro to Kendall? Let me know and I’ll connect you!

Introducing the Awesome People Talent Accelerator 🎉

Drum roll, please!! Over the past year, we’ve helped over 50 people start consulting and freelancing. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done ❤️. To help more people achieve financial freedom on their own terms, we’re launching the Awesome People Talent Accelerator. You in? Apply today!

Over the course of 7-days, we’ll help 10 awesome people launch their consulting businesses. The program kicks off on Sept 21. By the end of Sept you’ll be talking to clients and in business (yes, it’s true!). 

We’ll host workshops, fireside chats, and AMAs with successful freelancers. The accelerator is only 2-hrs a day and designed to work with your current schedule 😄.  

Interested in joining? Check out the deets here and email me with any questions. 

Also, know someone who might be a fit (5 years+ experience in tech)? Share this landing page or forward this email to them. We trust you and are grateful for your recommendations 🙏!

That’s all for this week ✨! Email me if you want an intro to Kendall! Or if you’re interested in joining the talent accelerator!

Stay awesome, 

Julia Lipton

Founder of Awesome People and Awesome People Ventures

If you liked this, heart it below and share it with friends ❤️

If someone forwarded this to you, you can sign up here 💌

P.S. 💎

So you want to be a fund manager?

Last week Afore launched their Angels program. I know a lot of you angel invest, so go crazy applying! If you apply, let me know and I’ll ping their team and give you a vouch!

Forward this to your marketing friends because these jobs are 🔥

There are two super cool marketing jobs open at my portfolio companies atm. Usually, we treat all awesome startups equally (portfolio companies, or not), but I’m just too excited about these roles that I had to share them here. Do you know anyone who would be a fit? If so, I’d love to connect them. 

  • Verto - Director of marketing. Verto allows college Freshman to earn college credits while traveling abroad. It’s loved by students and I wish it existed when I was 18. There’s no JD for this one, but I got the inside scoop. They’re looking for someone who’s strong with gen-z marketing and has experience building and scaling marketing teams. Their revenue is impressive, they’re well-funded and are ready to go big. 

  • Levels - Head of content (JD) Levels is the leader in metabolic health. It allows you to see how everything you eat impacts your blood sugar in real-time. PSA: Oat milk matcha lattes are a very bad idea. Levels is also one of the most loved consumer products I’ve ever seen (check out their twitter for proof). Their blog gets a lot of traffic, is growing fast, and they’re looking for someone to build out their editorial team.

Most recent Awesome People 😍

Vlad - Video producer and content marketer. He’s worked with Fast, Eaze, and Forgerock, to produce eye-popping content, plan affordable marketing campaigns, and supercharge user engagement strategies.

Laura - Geo Expansion and Product Ops GM. She’s worked with McKinsey, Sierra Ventures, and held product and ops leadership roles across Opendoor, growing the company from 2 cities to 20+ and 100 employees to 1500+.

Fabri - Go-to-market consultant and product marketing leader. He’s worked with Alan, Snapchat, and Square to launch products, tap into new markets, and scale revenue exponentially.

Let me know if you want intros to any of the people above and I’ll connect you!