Addiction is the new growth

Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette by Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)

1. Technology changes but people stay the same

Andrew Chen, Uber’s and Dropbox’s ex head of growth and now partner at a16z, recently shared his investing thesis for consumer products.

2. Primitive-Narrative fit

Jean de la Rochebrochard, partner at Kima Ventures, likes to look at end-user facing products through the prisme of the NPE canvas.

3. B=MAT

BJ Fogg is probably the most prominent behavior searcher in Silicon Valley. Fogg developed a magic formula to understand if and why a certain behavior will occur or not. We’re really leveraging the dark matter here.

  • Motivation: user’s energy to do a certain thing depending on its human instincts like Pleasure/Pain, Hope/Fear or Social Acceptance/Rejection
  • Ability: easiness to do the required action depending on time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance and non-routine
  • Trigger: the call to action

Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger

For a behavior to occur, motivation (M), ability (A) and a trigger (T) must converge at the same moment.

4. The Hook Canvas

If you’re looking to add some form of addiction to your product, Nir Eyal’s framework is probably one of the most actionnable out there.

  • The Triggers: what are the internal (emotions, situations, places…) and external triggers (CTA, notifications, billboards…) linked to your product?
  • The Action: what is the simplest behavior or use of a product feature in anticipation of a reward?
  • The Reward: is the reward fulfilling enough, yet leaves the user wanting more? Rewards can be social, resources or self-achievements. Counterintuitively, reward randomness increases engagement.
  • The Investment: what bit of work is done to increase the likelihood of returning? Users invest for things like money, time, data, social capital…

5. Status-Seeking Monkeys

Eugene Wei, ex-product owner at Amazon explained that most of us are looking for social capital and that any social app that wants to be successful has to let its users earn this capital the same way you would earn a currency.

Pandora by Chauncey Bradley Ives (1810–1894)

Don’t be evil

I couldn’t write a blog post about product addiction without mentioning the word “ethic”. By understanding better and better how the human brain is working, we could be on the verge to open a pandora box. Recently, many entrepreneurs, designers and philosophers talked about the risks of user manipulations, either through design or algorithms.

Looking for tips?

If you’re building an end-user facing product, there are good chances that you can add some form of addiction that will help you drive more growth through users retention. Always feel free to ping me if I can help.



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Jean-Sébastien Wallez

Jean-Sébastien Wallez

Co-Founder at — Part-Time Director at The Family —