The Proof
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Accelerated Learning Curves

 
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Accelerated Learning Curves

In Issue No. 25, Hims & Hers Founder Andrew Dudum offers his thoughts on integrating and sustaining accelerating learning curves. Dudum notes that “If you want to build a really successful company, you’ll need the smartest people to help you.” He reinforces this thought, adding, “You better be searching through every crevasse to find those people.”

Hims, launched only a little over a year ago, is already valued at over $1 billion after its most recent funding round, demonstrating one of the steepest startup growth curves in recent memory. Hims — and its recently launched sister company, Hers — are direct manifestations of Andrew Dudum’s personal growth trajectory.

After his sophomore year at Wharton, Dudum left to join TokBox, a video communications startup backed by Sequoia. He then co-founded Ever.com in 2013, one of the top iOS productivity apps across 95+ countries. After launching Ever, Dudum co-founded Atomic, a venture-builder backed by Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen, and is an active angel investor and advisor to over two dozen startups.

In order to understand and emulate both Dudum and his company’s accelerated growth curves, it’s important to first grasp two concepts: mimetic behavior and feedback loops.


Mimetic Behavior

Mimetic behavior revolves around the insight that human desire and correlating action is not autonomous, but collective. Peter Thiel has referenced the role of mimetic behavior in startups on multiple occasions, often drawing from contemporary French philosopher Rene Girard. When asked about this theory, Thiel points out, “Imitation is inescapable. As a rule, we do what we do just because other people are doing it, too.”

You’ve likely heard some version of the following: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Or, put another way, “You become who you surround yourself with.” These maxims reiterate the core theory driving mimetic behavior.

Dudum reiterates this principle, noting, “I’ve always believed that your intelligence is a reflection of the people you spend the most time with, so I try to surround myself with people I admire, who are smart, curious and driven.” Critically, your positive or negative lifestyle choices can be both reinforced or questioned — and in turn magnified — by those that you decide to spend time around.

Until the explosive rise of Hims & Hers, I’ve never quite realized the extent to which startup growth curves resembles those of its founding team. Dudum is prime example of mimetic behavior translating from one’s personal trajectory to that of one’s startup success.


Feedback Loops

Shane Parrish, the Founder of Farnam Street, recently interviewed Y Combinator Partner Daniel Gross about catalyzing success and mimetic behavior. When asked about his feedback loops, Gross remarks that he asks himself, “Am I doing things that seem good to the local circle of people whose opinions I care about?” Gross notes that this inner circle acts like a personal advisory board, who will start to question or positively reinforce certain behaviors.

A strong inner circle yields rapid behavioral feedback loops confined to a short period of time. These behaviors, distilled down into daily habits, significantly alter the way you think and synthesize information. In order to change the way you think, you must change who you surround yourself with. Gross ends his argument, concluding, “The people you are surrounded by will rewrite your brain whether you want them to or not.”


Hyper-Growth

If you seek to integrate and adhere to accelerated learning curves, you need to surround yourself with the best. As Dudum points out, you must “search every crevasse” to accomplish this task. While it may seem like common knowledge that you — and your work — are a direct reflection of your inner circle, Dudum and his company’s parallel growth trajectories undeniably drive this point home.

Concentric circles of peers and behavioral influences compound over time. Friends introduce you to their personal advisory boards, and those individuals continue to do so at an ever increasing rate. In Dudum’s case, these concentric circle began to form early on in his career in the startup world. In his interview with Harry Stebbings on The Twenty Minute VC, Dudum notes that he “grew up in hyper-mode” in Silicon Valley. By surrounding himself with folks already experiencing accelerated learning curves, he was able to grow at a rate that others might deem impossible.

Coming full circle, this accelerated growth arc represents a direct result of mimetic behavior at a young age paired with rapid feedback loops from folks on a similar trajectory. When these pieces fluidly fall into place, compounding returns begin to take effect.

In Dudum’s case, these returns manifest in his foundational ethos at Hims: surround yourself with the best team and hyper-growth will follow. Though Hims & Hers are still in their early innings, the patterns evident in Dudum’s past experience indicate that the accelerated growth trajectory of his company appears unlikely to be slowing down anytime soon.