When I first heard the term ‘growth hacking‘ being used enthusiastically around the U.S. startup scene I was intrigued and wondered how quickly it would reach our shores. Fast forward several years and a cursory LinkedIn search suggests that there are only around 20 organisations in the U.K. who have someone with the job title ‘growth hacker’ in their team. So what is going on?

Whilst pondering why there are so few ‘growth hackers’ in the UK and recalling how a former colleague would walk away in disgust whenever I mentioned the term, I had the good fortune to bump into a friend, Andrew Girwood – media innovation director at DigitalLBi in Edinburgh – who is a self-proclaimed geek and lives and breathes all things tech and digital. His response to the conundrum was straightforward: ‘growth hackers’ and ‘growth hacking’ need to be treated as two separate matters.

A ‘growth hacker’ is a job title which can attract quite a bit of debate. Is it a ‘real’ job title? Is it just a digital marketer? Is it a marketing savvy developer? Is it a product manager with added responsibility?

By focusing on the ‘growth hacker’ debate it is easy to become distracted from the merits of the ‘growth hacking’ concept. In its simplest form, ‘growth hacking’ highlights the need to break out of traditional silos and gather together cross-functional skill-sets (e.g. dev, marketing and product teams) in order to come up with innovative and effective ways to drive growth.

An example from our own shores which demonstrates the power of ‘growth hacking’ is – which increased the number of monthly unique visits to its website by over 20 million in a single year.


Metro Monthly Unique Visitors (Jan’12 – Feb’14)

Metro Monthly Unique Visitors (Jan’12 – Feb’14)













A single goal of growth allowed us to work together cross functionally and a focus on data and numbers ensured that feedback was always digestible. Content, social and tech sitting together and working together enabled the good ideas to come to the top quicker and equally the bad ones get ignored. Equally focusing on data helped take emotion out of decision making which enabled data to win arguments. This sped up innovation and focus. In most cases we have done less but done what we have done better to achieve growth.” – David Jensen (former Head of Development – Metro).

There were no ‘growth-hackers’ in sight and they didn’t do anything particularly Earth-shattering; they simply adopted a ‘growth hacking’ mentality which allowed them to break out of traditional silos, fostered cross-team collaboration and created a focus on a shared goal – growth.

So maybe it is time to shift away from the distraction of the ‘growth hacker’ debate and start focusing on the merits that the ‘growth hacking’ mentality can bring, from its traditional home in start-ups through to large global organisations.

Given how polarising this topic can be, I am keen to hear your thoughts, feelings, rants and anecdotes. Feel free to comment below, ping me on LinkedIn, drop me an email (davidrae

[at] or give me a call (0131 603 9855).