A Barcelona rooftop interview with growth hacker Tim Cakir

A Barcelona rooftop interview with growth hacker Tim Cakir

The anatomy of a growth hacker

I was quietly drinking a nice chilled glass of Rosé on a Barcelona Terrace last Thursday when I heard a little voice coming from the guttering. “Psst! George…George…” it said, “Have you heard about tracking and hacking?”

It turns out that Tim Cakir – a Barcelona-based growth hacking expert – had surreptitiously hidden himself on the roof.

After he abseiled down, I agreed to interview him. And this is what happened next.

Tim Cakir on the @weareserviceclub terrace
Tim Cakir on the @weareserviceclub terrace
Hi Tim, how long have you been on the roof?

Never you mind.

Okay. Well…we’ll start with your move from London to Barcelona. How long have you been here?

I’ve been in Barcelona for around 18 months now.

You’re a newbie! But you’ve certainly made an impact here already, with Talaia, Restb and your own speaking engagements. So what’s surprised you most about the city so far?

Really it’s been amazing to a see a city that’s booming, with such a big startup scene, yet still with so much potential for more. There’s a lot of room for growth – which is what I’m all about.

You’ve made a significant shift in your career – what made you choose growth hacking?

I started off as a salesman – selling carpets in LA at 18 years old. I made some money, but I didn’t really enjoy it; sales is about getting people who don’t need stuff to buy stuff. Marketing is about giving people value, getting them to come to you and then they buy the things they do want.

Later on, when I got into sound engineering in London with my own studio, I was working with lots of artists, cool bands, DJs, a radio station, and we had parties with around 2000 people every couple of months. There was a lot going on –  and I found I was marketing it all.

So really for me this is a natural next step. Here in Barcelona I’ve been heading up some marketing departments and building them from scratch – as they say from 0 to 1.

I love the chaos. I like putting the right people in the right places, getting things going and teaching people how to do it.

So, for people who don’t know, can you tell me what growth hacking is?

Well, I think it’s a buzzword – I prefer not to use the term “growth hacking”. I like to call it “tracking and hacking” instead, which explains more about the process behind it all.

With tracking and hacking, you follow a certain metric, the OMTM  – or the one metric that matters. You can then experiment, looking at what affects the OMTM in order to grow it, before you start to look at other areas of the business.

So you don’t follow Sean Ellis at all? 

Some people call Sean Ellis (who coined the term in 2010) “the inventor of growth hacking” – he was clever enough to recognise that there were some extroverted marketeers out there, people who were trying new things and getting interesting results. He wrote the book Hacking Growth – which, incidentally, is great and I recommend reading.

I saw there were a couple of core elements behind growth hacking, which is why I prefer “tracking and hacking” as a description.

How do you explain tracking and hacking to CMOs?

Some CMOs and marketeers make the mistake of trying to track and grow all the metrics at once. They get very frustrated because it takes a very long time to get anywhere.

They need to understand that with tracking and hacking, there’s a lot of failures early on. In the first two to three months you can expect to fail a lot. But you need to track it so you can learn from these failures. Really you might complete 30 to 40 experiments before you start getting good at it – and that takes a bit of time.

A lot of old school CMOs don’t always catch on to this idea immediately because they expect it to be done today and to see results right away. But they soon see it’s much quicker and more reliable than a year long marketing project. It’s a lot cheaper too. Rather than asking for a whole year’s marketing budget, I’m going to ask for a small percentage – then when it starts to work, we can 5x, 10x, 20X the results!

Okay. Without taking your clothes off, can you describe the anatomy of a growth hacker?


No I said without taking your clothes off.


Charisma – Growth hackers are thinkers, doers, and speakers. We’re charismatic and constantly networking with old and new opportunities.

Courage – To always try out new things, to get what we want and what we strive for, to face the steep Stairway to success.

Experiments – Are the basis of Growth. We always experiment with new tools, skillsets, or trends to see what works best.

Limits – Exceed them to find what works and doesn’t. We always strive to be the best and, if we fail, that’s just another starting point.

Tools – Aren’t for fools. They’re for smart people, like us, who know what incorporating them is key on the road to growth.

Words – Don’t come easy… to everyone. But, growth hackers aren’t everyone. We have a way with words.

Growth hacking is often talked about in startup circles – companies seeking exponential growth – but do you think more established corporates can rethink the way they do things and use the same techniques?

Yeah of course. If you think about it it, the biggest corporations in the world—even companies in the Fortune 500—need to think like startups when they’re building new projects. This is more on the innovation side of things, because they don’t need to hack the growth of more established areas.  

Corporations realise that startups have this mentality – and that need to adapt to new trends, even if they’re big  – and so many create startups within their companies. To be successful in this, they need to have a hacking and tracking mindset.

How blackhat can growth hacking go?

It can be as naughty as you like, so long as the naughtiness doesn’t effect the end user. And so long as you don’t make their life harder, it can go as far as you want. If you’re going to give them things they’re going to like, then they’ll be happy.

Word association game – GDPR:

Pain in the arse.

But it’s also one of the best things that happened to marketing. Why? Because we’re going to have so many more engaged leads. It’s better to have 1000 engaged people in your CRM than 10,000 bored ones.

So thank you to the European Commission. As I said, it’s been a pain in the arse to implement, but my marketing has always been about people giving consent anyway.

It’s about consent for content.

Do you ever take tracking and hacking techniques offline? What would that look like?

Yes, you most definitely can. Tracking and hacking is not online. It’s not digital. It’s experimentation.

I’ll give you an example – a great friend of mine was working for a churros truck and they wanted more customers. So they made a flyer and chose an area to distribute it.

But instead of blanketing the area, they went to certain streets and houses and were able to find the best market and really hack their own growth and sell a lot more churros. And this was all completely offline.

What are you doing to hack your own growth?

When I first moved here, after living in London, I thought – what am I going to do to get to know people? So I put a chatbot in place called Dux-Soup on my LinkedIn and messaged 250 people a day with a personalised message asking for help. People were very happy to talk to me and in the end I got 3800 new contacts in six months and went to lunch or coffee with 150-200 people.

What tools, resources and things do you recommend our readers to look into?

Dux-soup – which I mentioned is my one of my favourites.

Lately I’ve also been looking at dealify.io. It gives you all the deals for the tech tools in the world.

I also love Media Lab Amsterdam’s offline tool – they offer physical cards with a business methods toolkit and design methods tool kit. Basically it’s all the frameworks, analyses and all things you need to start a business, launch products and run projects – for about €35

Then there’s Phantom Buster, which offers cloud APIs that help your marketing – and I like it a lot.

Also there’s Instanobel automations which helps you automate your instagram and find more followers. Just be careful not to get spammy, or people will report you.

How can people find you?

Send me a message and I’m available!

LinkedIn: Tim Cakir  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/timucincakir

Twitter – cakirtim

Website: https://timcakir.com/

So what’s next for Tim, Tim?

Since I moved here I’ve had full-time jobs. But I know that a lot of people need my skills – and I don’t want to limit myself to one company.

So the next step for me? Well I’m on the advisory board for a lot of amazing companies like Spitche and Service Club.

And there’s a chance I might just be starting my own growth agency.

Mic drop.


Before we go…

Special thanks to Zeynep Demirbilek and Luz Cortazar of Service Club for their warm hospitality.

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