Sept. 15, 2022

When and how to invest in new acquisition channels | Adam Grenier (Uber, MasterClass)

Adam Grenier is the former Head of Growth Marketing and Innovation at Uber, where he helped build Uber’s growth infrastructure from the ground up. He is also the former VP of Product and Marketing at LambdaSchool, and former VP of Marketing at Masterclass. These days, Adam is a growth and marketing advisor to many companies, as well as a teacher through Reforge. In today’s episode, Adam shares how to determine whether a new channel is worth exploring, the rise of the growth CMO, and how improv classes can improve team bonding and create a more positive ‘yes’ culture. He also speaks candidly about his own struggles with burnout and depression and shares some incredible tools that have helped him along the way.

Where to find Adam Grenier:

• Twitter:

• LinkedIn:

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• Newsletter:

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Thank you to our wonderful sponsors for making this episode possible:

• Whimsical:

• Coda:

• Amplitude:


• OOT:

• Grin:

• Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers:

Hacking Marketing: Agile Practices to Make Marketing Smarter, Faster, and More Innovative:

• Adam’s twitter thread about burnout:

Why Buddhism is True:

In this episode, we cover:

(00:35) Adam’s background

(05:34) How improv can improve creativity and collaboration

(13:09) What we’ll cover in this episode

(13:52) Determining when an acquisition channel is a good match

(25:38) Advice for how long to test a new channel

(30:11) Emerging platforms that are worth exploring

(36:53) Influencer marketing tools

(37:55) When to broaden your audience

(41:22) What is a Growth CMO?

(49:36) Why marketing leaders should learn product development

(51:32) Red flags that your CMO isn’t a good fit

(55:33) Dealing with depression and burnout

(1:03:00) Tools to help you through difficult times

(1:05:20) Signs you’re facing burnout

(1:07:15) What’s next for Adam

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Adam Grenier (00:00:00):

One of the biggest pieces of advice I'm giving to people that are like, "How should we adjust our marketing with the economic changes and things like that?" I was like, "Start by assuming you no longer have product market fit, because you had product market fit in a different market." It's a different market now, so you have to start over. And hopefully you do, or it's pretty close to it and you just have to adjust a couple things, and you could be right back on track. But if you just assume you need to launch a new channel to fix this problem, you're going to be wrong, because your entire customer base changed, not just the next 10% of customers that you're looking for.

Lenny (00:00:34):

Welcome to Lenny's Podcast. I'm Lenny and my goal here is to help you get better at the craft of building and growing products. I interview world class product leaders and growth experts to learn from their hard won experiences building and scaling today's most successful companies. Today, my guest is Adam Grenier. Adam was head of Growth Marketing and Innovation at Uber where he basically built their growth marketing infrastructure and the team from the ground up. Then he went on to VP of Product and Marketing at Lambda School, and most recently he was VP of Marketing at Masterclass. These days, Adam advises companies, large and small, on growth and marketing strategy.

Lenny (00:01:10):

In our conversation, we cover how to decide when to try new and emerging acquisition channels like TikTok, VR, newsletter ads, and how to go about testing them out. We get into the growth CMO role, which is an emerging role that Adam has helped pioneer, and we get into some real talk about burnout and depression and mental health issues that often come with working in tech. This was a really powerful and insightful conversation and I learned a lot from Adam both as an operator and as a human. I can't wait for you to hear this episode. And so with that, I bring you Adam Grenier.

Lenny (00:01:48):

This episode is brought to you by Whimsical. When I ask product managers and designers on Twitter what software they use most, Whimsical is always one of the most mentioned products, and the users are fanatical. Whimsical is built for collaborative thinking combining visual, text and data canvases into one fluid medium. Distributed teams use Whimsical for workshops, white boarding, wire frames, user flows, and even feature specs, and that includes thousands of built-in icons and a rich library of templates. See why product teams at leading companies call Whimsical a game changer. Visit to have my own templates added to your account when you sign up. That's

Lenny (00:02:34):

This episode is brought to you by Coda. Coda's an all-in-one doc that combines the best of documents, spreadsheets, and apps in one place. I actually use Coda every single day. It's my home base for organizing my newsletter writing, it's where I plan my content calendar, capture my research, and write the first drafts of each and every post. It's also where I curate my private knowledge repository for paid newsletter subscribers, and it's also how I manage the workflow for this very podcast. Over the years I've seen Coda evolve from being a tool that makes teams more productive, to one that also helps bring the best practices across the tech industry to life, with an incredibly rich collection of templates and guides in the Coda Dock Gallery, including resources from many guests on this podcast, including Shreyas, Gokul, and Shishir, the CEO of Coda.

Lenny (00:03:23):

Some of the best teams out there like Pinterest, Spotify, Square, and Uber use Coda to run effectively, and have published their templates for anyone to use. If you're ping ponging between lots of documents and spreadsheets, make your life better and start using Coda. You can take advantage of a special limited time offer just for startups. Head over to to sign up and get a $1,000 credit on your first statement. That's C-O-D-A.I-O/lenny to sign up and get a $1,000 in credit on your account.

Lenny (00:04:02):

Adam, welcome to the podcast.

Adam Grenier (00:04:04):

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Lenny (00:04:06):

It's my pleasure. I'm really excited to chat. So, I'm going to give a very brief overview of your very impressive career, and just let me know if I missed anything.

Adam Grenier (00:04:15):

All right.

Lenny (00:04:15):

Sound good?

Adam Grenier (00:04:15):


Lenny (00:04:17):

Okay, so you were most recently VP of Marketing at Masterclass, which I'm actually a happy subscriber of and I've watched many a video. Before that, you were VP of Product and Marketing at Lambda School. I don't know if that's right before, but that was something you did. Also, you were head of Growth Marketing and Innovation at Uber, which is a really cool title. And I think you spent four years there and you basically built their growth marketing infrastructure and the team. And currently you're doing a bunch of advising and exploring to see what you want to do next. Is that about right?

Adam Grenier (00:04:50):

Yeah, you hit most of the key points. I think pre-Uber, the first chunk of my career was on the advertising side, so worked in agency world. So, I kind of think of this as phase three of my life. Ads world was phase one, startup and growth world phase two, and now really just spending time helping entrepreneurs and founders and built companies and that type of stuff.

Lenny (00:05:16):

What's been your favorite phase so far?

Adam Grenier (00:05:18):

I mean all of them. I just embrace what gets thrown at me and allow it to organically happen. So, each phase has had its pros and cons and ups and downs, and so I think they've all fit pretty well into where I was in my career.

Lenny (00:05:34):

Speaking of moving and adjusting and iterating, I know you're big into improv. How serious are you about improv?

Adam Grenier (00:05:44):

Good question. Serious in the sense that I've done it for a very long time and I still do it and I try to do it regularly. Serious as in am I aiming to make money off of it and have a career out of it? Unfortunately not. There was a point in my life that that is what I wanted to do. I lived in Chicago, did Second City ImprovOlympic, a variety of different places, did quite a bit of performing, but also got into corporate paychecks early as well.

Adam Grenier (00:06:12):

And so kind of built a lifestyle that made doing improv full time probably not the best path for me at the time. And so made a pretty conscious choice early on that it was more of a hobby and if something ever came of it, cool, but if not, that's okay. It's something I keep coming back to, because it's very grounding and fulfilling in ways that work and family life and things like that don't quite hit for me.

Lenny (00:06:34):

Actually at Airbnb we had an improv teacher come and work with the PM team. It was for months. We did improv games once a week.

Adam Grenier (00:06:42):


Lenny (00:06:43):

And played all these fun things. And I'm curious what you've taken away from improv that has helped you become better at your work?

Adam Grenier (00:06:51):

So, I think generally the whole suite of skills that you develop in improv are pretty applicable, right? Because you are getting comfortable on your feet with change, with teamwork, building off of each other, experimenting, trying new things, a little bit of everything. I think a couple of the key rules or themes of improv that I really try to hammer home with people are obviously the "Yes, and..." side of improv, which everyone's probably heard, which is in a scene the worst thing you could do is deny somebody, because you're actually just stopping progress and you're not building off of anything.

Adam Grenier (00:07:27):

So, the appropriate approach is to say, "Yes, that is true, and..." and add to it. So, if someone's like, "Hey, you have a chicken on your head," not saying, "No, I don't." Just kind of ruins that scene. Versus saying, "Yes, I do, and it's name is Sally. What's your chicken's name?" Builds on that and gives it more opportunity. And so I think that in growth in business is super important to be able to say, "Yes, I do see your idea," or "Yes, we did accomplish this and this is what we want to do next and this is how it's going to build on it," I think is super important.

Adam Grenier (00:07:59):

The other one that I think is less known or talked about is the gift of details. So, in a scene, if you give somebody really specific details about something, it gives so much more meat to be able to work off of in terms of what's coming next. So, if someone's starting a scene and they're clearly watching television and clicking through the channels and I walk up and just say like, "Oh, you're watching TV, cool." That's a yes statement. I'm not denying what they did. But if I come up and say like, "Oh cool, you're watching TV. Is that an Alf episode? I haven't seen Alf since I was a kid. It reminds me this one time I actually ate my own cat."

Adam Grenier (00:08:39):

Just giving those specific details of Alf and me as a kid and I had a cat, which if people don't know Alf, he ate cats.

Lenny (00:08:48):

I don't remember that. I remember Alf, but I don't remember he ate cats.

Adam Grenier (00:08:51):

He was always trying to get the family cat. So, those kinds of details add a ton of value and you take that into the business world, to use Masterclass for instance, if I say, "Yeah, Masterclass, we've got this way to build content that is both entertainment and education," that's interesting. But if I say, "We create content that is both education and entertainment to solve people's deep curiosities in the way that maybe a biography would." That just opens up the exact problem that you're trying to solve. What are other alternatives to that problem? How are people consuming that? So, I think the gift of details in good improv and learning those skills is something that I really value and look for in every aspect of my business life as well.

Lenny (00:09:41):

It sounds like it's really helpful, one, in marketing, creativity and positioning, and things like that you just described. Have you found it also to be helpful in collaboration like this "Yes, and..." piece? I'm curious, is there an example or story where you like "Yes, and..." someone? Do you actually say "Yes, and..." in a meeting? How do you actually find that you use it?

Adam Grenier (00:09:58):

I hear it every now and then. I don't usually literally say it. I think one of the areas that I've found it to be valuable is when you've got cross-functional work. So, obviously at Uber we dealt with city teams a lot, and so a lot of the times the way that the central team would scope a problem versus a local team would scope a problem, would almost feel at odds with each other. And if you approach it with that "Yes, and...", it's often still true.

Adam Grenier (00:10:24):

It's like, oh, both of these things can be true at once. You could have a different goal than I have, or you have a system problem local to you that is important to you and it's not important to me. That's okay, both things can exist. So, now that we accept both and can work off of each other, we're more likely to build both a better rapport and energy among ourselves because we're not just saying, "No, no, no, no, you're wrong. That's not true, that's not important to the business. Why are you doing that?" That type of energy when cross-functional work, it just kills the scene, it kills that progress. And then you don't build relationships, you don't build the right solutions, all that type of stuff.

Lenny (00:11:06):

It sounds really good. Everyone in theory wants to be really good at this. And I imagine just doing a bunch of improv is a really good way to get better at not getting defensive and being like, "Yes. And how do we make this idea better?" Is there something you can advise folks to work on this skill, or is it just do a bunch of improv classes and it'll kind of help build that skill?

Adam Grenier (00:11:25):

That's one. I would say that I'll say that all the time to people, "Do some improv classes." And I get a lot of people like, "No, I'm not funny," or, "I don't want to do improv." And I think it's still a really great class to take, even if you have zero interest in doing improv, or public speaking, or any of that kind of stuff. Because, again, improv 101 is taught everywhere. Every city has it somewhere, and it's rarely ever people that are trying to do improv professionally. It's all games, like you said. The classes that you all did at Airbnb is what improv 101 is, right?

Adam Grenier (00:12:00):

It's just like, "Hey, let's just have fun. Let's just get out of our skin," and things like that. So, I do think everybody should take improv classes. I think it's also something with a lot of goals or skills that you want to develop, I think being really public and open about you wanting to develop that. So, if you are managing a team and you want to sharpen the skills, make it a team goal, or have accountability and just say, "Hey guys, I know that I've been pushing back on things lately. I want to really try to embrace and grow off of ideas better, hold me accountable, call me out and be like, 'Adam, "Yes, and..." this please."

Adam Grenier (00:12:32):

Or giving people permission to push back on that when it doesn't happen, I think also just opens the door for more productive conversations with people and the ability to hold yourself accountable and keep trying it.

Lenny (00:12:47):

I love that. And such a good team bonding activity. There's like all these reasons to do this as a team. My wife actually, she's a designer, artist, writer, illustrator kind of person, and she's been taking a lot of these sorts of classes to help inspire her creativity. She never wants to be an improv person, she did stand up classes.

Adam Grenier (00:13:03):

That's awesome.

Lenny (00:13:05):

As you said, it just helps you get the juices flowing along these lines. Okay, so we're not going to talk about improv the whole time.

Adam Grenier (00:13:13):

We could if you want to.

Lenny (00:13:15):

We could. Throw me word, let's go. No, we don't want to do that. So, there's basically three things I really wanted to chat about with you. One is how to decide when to invest in an emerging acquisition channel like TikTok, VR, Clubhouse was a big thing. You have some really interesting thoughts on how to decide and approach this thing. To the growth CMR role, which is kind of this, I think emerging role, something you're really good at, and I just want to get your thoughts on what's happening there. And then, three, some real talk on burnout and depression that often comes with working in tech and stuff that we go through. Does that sound good?

Adam Grenier (00:13:51):


Lenny (00:13:51):

Okay, great. So, to start with in the first topic, if you think about it just every company essentially goes through this kind of S-curve of growth. They start slow, they find something that's working, then hopefully it works out and things start to grow, grow, grow, and then eventually it flattens out and you see this S-curve that happens. And every company is always trying to find the next S-curve to add this layer on the cake that keeps overall growth up while this first growth channel slows.

Lenny (00:14:18):

And so people are always looking for what's the next thing? "Oh man, Clubhouse is coming out. We should get on Clubhouse." "Oh, TikTok is so hot, we've got to run some TikTok ads." And there's always something new, like newsletter ads, I don't know, podcast ads, if that's new. And you have a really interesting framework for how to think about this and make decisions and experiment. So, I'd love to hear insights there.

Adam Grenier (00:14:38):

So, the exploring emerging channels framework that I'll take, either my teams or companies that I'm advising through, has three core ingredients that I like to spend time with. So, the first is really understanding if there is an overlap between what the customers need is, what your company's goals are, and what the channel actually does really well. So, the example I've used in the past is Spotify in the moment of things like Clubhouse and Paparazzi and stuff like that becoming really popular.

Adam Grenier (00:15:14):

Well, for Spotify, they're trying to get more people to consume music and be entertained by music and things like that. And it's all audio driven. And so their growth goals are probably around new customers or deeper engagement with audio. The customer's needs are discovery and more ways to maybe have deeper relationships with their music. If you're a jazz fan, can you learn new jazz artists or more about the artists that you love? Things like that. And then take those two channels. If you take something like Clubhouse, it's audio first, it's almost like live podcast radio type feel to it.

Adam Grenier (00:15:57):

You can get into these rooms with just people with really amazing esoteric knowledge about something. And so its strengths have a really clean overlap to me with the goals of Spotify, the needs of the customer and the strengths of that. And so that to me is great. That is probably a green light in terms of is it even worth our time? Versus Paparazzi is very photo driven and nothing really to do with music or anything like that. And so it's like even though Paparazzi might have become the best biggest channel ever, is that the thing you should be putting your time into? It would be a yellow light for me at best.

Lenny (00:16:36):

And how did you describe that again? It's the medium matches?

Adam Grenier (00:16:40):

Yeah, the strengths of the medium. So, let's take influencer right now. Actually two of the channels that a lot of people are talking about right now are streaming TV or OTT and influencer marketing. And so to me, one of the strengths of influencer marketing is hyper targeted contextual marketing. And so I can go find the five influencers that are hardcore Alf fans, and if I'm marketing Alf something, great, I can go find that specific thing. Whereas OTTs a lot harder to get that specific.

Adam Grenier (00:17:16):

OTT strength is broad reach and video storytelling and that type of stuff. So, it's like, okay, well maybe my medium is if I'm Masterclass and I have a ton of video content and storytelling and things like that, that channel actually makes a ton of sense probably. So, it's like what are the strengths of that channel is something that... that is actually probably the piece I see people ignore the most, which is they just want to know if a channel is hot or not. And this gets especially hairy in this world of a lot of B2B doing more consumer-esque marketing. There's so many B2B companies that just don't apply to emerging consumer channels.

Adam Grenier (00:18:00):

And it's just like, please just stop. I don't need a Notion Clubhouse channel this week. And maybe there's a world to do that. But I think that's kind of number one, is making sure that there's even a reason that you should be there to put it on your radar right now.

Lenny (00:18:19):

Awesome. What does the OTT stand for by the way?

Adam Grenier (00:18:22):

Oh my gosh, you're putting it on the spot.

Lenny (00:18:24):

It's all good.

Adam Grenier (00:18:25):

I'm drawing a blank on it.

Lenny (00:18:26):

But essentially it's a streaming platform?

Adam Grenier (00:18:28):

Over the top. Over the top. So, instead of it being cable TV, it's coming from a box. So, it's primarily if you think of ads on Amazon or Hulu or even if you go to and you start streaming and you get an ad first. it's basically video ads, but a lot of them now are happening on televisions and on streaming services rather than just on websites.

Lenny (00:18:55):

Got it. Okay, cool. So, the first is the strength of the channel. You should look at that.

Adam Grenier (00:18:59):

Yep. And how that overlaps with your customer and your business needs. The second is the channel DNA. And so this is looking at things like where are they in their trajectory? So, Clubhouse is actually a perfect example, because in a weird way, so Clubhouse got hot before Facebook got cold. And I was pretty amazed how many more people were trying to crack Clubhouse than TikTok, because TikTok hadn't really released their ads solution yet, but neither had Clubhouse. But everybody was talking about Clubhouse, and TikTok is very clearly not going away anytime soon, where Clubhouse hopefully won't. Like this is an amazing product.

Adam Grenier (00:19:41):

I really enjoyed it and loved it, but it was clearly very early, very quickly at that point of hotness where everyone was just kind of, "That's the reason I should be there." And part of this reason is to accept the risks of going into that channel. So, if I go and dedicate two quarters of work to Clubhouse, I need to accept that they are so early in this curve that there's a good chance this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it'll be over. It's not a repeatable action. It also is important because if you get something to work on a channel that's earlier in their growth curve, the likelihood that they will change is very high.

Adam Grenier (00:20:23):

You're going to need to commit a lot of cycles to keep it going, because it's like, "Okay, well, their product is going to evolve drastically very quickly over the next two years." And so a really great example is Facebook early... I was at Zoosk. And so Zoozk and companies like Zynga got tons of their early growth because of notifications on Facebook, which was one of their early features, which allowed basically anybody that took any action on Zynga, it would post on everybody else's page that you got 10 carrots, and that was a huge growth lever.

Adam Grenier (00:20:59):

But then Facebook just pulled the plug on that. And so it's like, well, if you put all of your energy into that and that's it, it was pretty clear that that was still an area that's like this may not last forever. The last thing on the channel DNA that I like to look at that's a little bit more, I don't know if odd or unusual is the right term, is I like to spend a lot of time thinking about how they monetize. What is the monetization strategy of the channel? And the reason is because if you, as a business, can match or support their monetization strategy, it actually gives you a really interesting leg up with that channel.

Adam Grenier (00:21:37):

Because the likelihood of you being able to call them up and go do custom stuff with them, or partner with them, or that your solutions will actually stick around for a while, it'd go up pretty drastically. And so my key example of this was with when Facebook started exploring mobile ads, Hotel Tonight, we were one of the alpha testers of mobile ads, because I'd been sitting here buying ad inventory on networks for the last five or six years and just waiting for Facebook to work, because it just wasn't really working for mobile installs.

Adam Grenier (00:22:13):

And it's like, I know this is a huge channel because I can use it on my online marketing, my web marketing, but as a mobile acquisition it's nowhere near as efficient as a lot of these other networks. And so as soon as they were doing that, I was able to basically position and say, "Look it, you want to work with us. Let me into your alpha, because I have five years of experience already buying mobile ads. I know the space. I know it'll work. And if you get us to work, we're a killer case study, because we are a non-game and a lot of money is spent on gaming, but there's these whole other major categories that you're going to need other than gaming examples within that group. So, you're going to be able to use me as a case study and a lot of different scenarios than the gaming players."

Adam Grenier (00:22:59):

And so I was spending a lot less than the gaming players, but because of that understanding that your goal at Facebook is to make ads work for all of travel and for all of leisure and those kinds of things, that's the value of working with me. So, that's another piece of the channel DNA I like people to focus on.

Lenny (00:23:18):

Awesome. That's such a good one, because to your point, if your goals are aligned, they're going to be like, "Yes, let's make this happen." And it always feels like it's this behemoth that doesn't want to talk to any new startups, but if you can make the case of this is going to help you and the way you laid out is so clear, it's such a good idea.

Adam Grenier (00:23:35):

And especially with emerging channels, right? Because their whole thing is that make this work for a long time. It's part of the challenge you see with some new channels flipping to the other side of growing an ads business, will gravitate towards like, "I want to get Disney on here," but Disney is very campaign driven, or they have been traditionally, where it's like you may get one big paycheck from them, but that doesn't... The way that UA driven gaming works is you get that to work, that's a gift that keeps on giving forever, right? Because there's not one of those companies, there's thousands of them and they all do the same thing. So, being able to drive that conversation is really helpful.

Lenny (00:24:18):


Adam Grenier (00:24:18):

And then the third main ingredient is just your own company DNA. And so I think risk profile is a big one. Do you actually have comfort in being a first mover, a true first mover? Nobody knows anything, tracking's not going to work, it's not going to be programmatic. You're probably going to show up on content that's offensive. You're probably going to ask for refunds that won't happen. It's going to be really painful to be a true first mover. Do you have that appetite? Do you have the staff to actually be able to put someone on that and it not distract from everything else?

Adam Grenier (00:24:53):

And then the other piece on the company side is just your current channel mix. There's very few companies that I recommend saying, "Yes, go put energy on this brand new channel that you don't know how to scale yet before you've figured out some type of volume on Google and Facebook." Every now and then there may be a perfect fit where it's like, absolutely, you should be the person doing this. But if you're not at least getting something out of the basic channels that everybody else is using, it's probably not the thing you should be putting your first energy into. It should be like, "Great, I've got a good foundation." Like you said, now we're at that stage of trying to add things, tends to be a better stage to do more risky exploration into new channels.

Lenny (00:25:40):

What advice do you have or can you give to founders teams that are trying to test one of these in terms of just how to run these tests? How much time should they spend, would you say? What do they look for? I know that this is a hard question and super dependent on the situation, but any advice there?

Adam Grenier (00:25:55):

So, I think going through those three ingredients should help shape that answer, right? Because if you're like, "Okay, well, the first one is super strong, the channel DNA is maybe really early and I've got a small to mid-size team and maybe only one channel working," then it may be like, "Great. Put half of one person into this, because it's maybe interesting. But don't put any more than that into it." Versus if it's like, "Man, this is a killer fit the channel's a little further along and I have a 20 person team, so I'm going to put three dedicated people to this, because we are in prime position to be the leaders in this new channel and really push it."

Adam Grenier (00:26:36):

So, I think it's figuring those pieces out, because it is a very it depends answer, but rarely ever is it like, "Hey, this should be your entire team's focus for the next three sprints or five sprints." I think that if you've got that half person working on it for a while and there starts to be some magic happening, sure, put a sprint or two against it as a whole team. But generally speaking, I think keeping it minimum at first is my typical recommendation.

Lenny (00:27:06):

I had another guest, Yuri, who I think from former Grammarly, and he made a really good point that it's often better not to try something than to do it badly and then take away the wrong lessons. I guess, in your experience, what's a timeframe you think people should put into this stuff? You said two sprints, maybe a couple weeks. I don't know, what's the range of just maybe don't spend more than X months on something new if it's not clearly working, just based on your experience.

Adam Grenier (00:27:33):

Generally I wouldn't let anything bleed past a quarter. You can probably get some good signal in a month or less, what I would call fishing. It wouldn't be like you're just putting bait in the water to figure out where the fish are, not necessarily getting statistically significant repeatable solutions. The big variables that can change that timing, so if I'm exploring a new video channel, the content I need to create is if I'm going to have to create something that takes three weeks to produce and $20,000 to make, I may want to give it a little more time, because I gave it more of an upfront investment.

Adam Grenier (00:28:16):

Versus if it's like I want to put text ads in podcasts listings or something like that. It's like, great, I can do that by myself at midnight and it's not distracting anybody or anything. And if it doesn't work in three weeks, let's move on. But generally ideally what you're working through, and we'll touch a little bit more on this with the Growth CMO, is that this should all be part of a roadmap. It shouldn't just be randomly chosen and thrown at. This should be part of your sprint process and you should have a backlog of other things that you want to try. And so you're actually weighing that decision of how long based on what other opportunities you're missing out on by investing in that.

Adam Grenier (00:28:57):

But I would say most channels, especially new ones, are going to take more than a couple cycles to kind of suss out. Because there's no rules, there's no playbooks yet on how to do them well. So, give it a little bit of time, but if you're going over a quarter and you don't feel like directionally it's getting better or it's interesting, I would put it back on ice for a while.

Lenny (00:29:18):

Cool. And to your point, you're not going to see any statistically significant answers. Is the thing you look for just like you know it when you see it? Oh wow, qualitatively feels like it's working kind of thing? Is that what you kind of look for?

Adam Grenier (00:29:30):

Yeah, and I think define that going into it. What am I looking for, for this? So, something like Clubhouse I'm probably not going to see clicks. It's more about are we able to start a room and increase the size of that room by 10% every time that we run it? Okay great, that means that we're at least getting better at this and there's more reach available to us. But if we're getting 20 people every time we start a room and then it goes down to 15, then we're either not doing this well, the channel's not doing well, or there's just not enough reach for us to actually expand. Versus TikTok you might be able to say, "Great, I can actually track clicks and conversion, so let's look at it the way we would any other channel."

Lenny (00:30:11):

Got it. So, kind of look for momentum and that you're getting better and that it's moving somewhere. Awesome.

Adam Grenier (00:30:16):

Yeah. Yep.

Lenny (00:30:17):

Cool. So, a question that I'm sure is on many people's minds that they would want to ask is, Adam, what are emerging platforms that are interesting right now that we should experiment with? What do you feel?

Adam Grenier (00:30:28):

So, I mean I mentioned OTT, or basically the key thing with OTT is that it's way more trackable than traditional television, but it has similar value that traditional TV does in terms of the ability to do more long form storytelling type content, and a lot of it's not skippable if you buy it. And so those are reasons to be exploring that right now. It's hard for me to call that emerging channel, because it's been around forever. It's there's more of it and the tools and services around it are way better now than they were four years ago. And so I think the sophistication and ability to scale OTT is much higher now than ever before. Influencers probably the one that I'm most intrigued by, because similar to OTT, the scale and services and the ability to go do it is still there.

Adam Grenier (00:31:19):

It's also got that hyper granularity that when I get into influencer tools, it feels to me like early Facebook when I used to go be able to target Lenny, or 10 people that have exactly the same likes as Lenny. And that type of stuff where it's like you can get so specific and find exactly who you need. It's incredibly tedious and manual and it's a lot of relationship management. So, I'm also keeping an eye on the technology being built around influencer, because I think that's a huge area of opportunity for entrepreneurs right now.

Adam Grenier (00:31:57):

But generally speaking, the scope and opportunity there is huge and it's not going away, but it feels very new and different right now. And it supplements the ability to do some hyper level targeting that you've not been able to do, that Facebook and Google are getting less open about at the same time. I think VR is really interesting in the way that mobile was interesting before iPhone Three, where it was if you've got a VR app, it's a really interesting space, but if you don't, it's not that interesting to me yet. Any that have come up for you that you're like... what are your thoughts on this?

Lenny (00:32:35):

No, these are great. All I think of is TikTok.

Adam Grenier (00:32:38):

I feel like TikTok's crossed a chasm, whereas they actually have a formalized ad platform now, people are finding scale. There's still a ton to do there and influencers is also weird, because it crosses all of these other worlds as well. But I think TikTok is actually hyper interesting and everyone should be doing that. But I think of that less as you should be doing it as should I do it, should I not? And it's more I need to figure out how to do Facebook if I'm at least mildly appropriately should be there.

Adam Grenier (00:33:05):

The podcast ads I think are great. I think that I bought podcast ads 15 years ago, so it doesn't feel like an emerging channel to me. I think there's way more volume now than there's ever been before. One of the guys that was on my team at Uber has a company that's doing programmatic buying and that type of stuff. And so I think there's more opportunities on podcast. I think people want to treat it like Facebook ads or direct response ads, immediate response ads. And actually what I keep seeing as the effective strategy with podcast ads is treating them more like radio where it's more about getting on the right program, making it personal and feel like it should be part of that program, and then repeating over and over and over again.

Adam Grenier (00:33:53):

So, I think podcast is super interesting. I think it's just hard to scale. It's likely not going to get people the same volumes as the Googles and Facebooks of the world.

Lenny (00:34:01):

Cue our mid-roll ad. I'm excited to chat with my friend John Cutler from Podcast sponsor, Amplitude. Hey John.

John Cutler (00:34:08):

Hey, Lenny. Excited to be here.

Lenny (00:34:10):

John, give us a behind the scenes at Amplitude. When most people think of Amplitude, they think of product analytics, but now you're getting into experimentation and even just launched a CDP. What's the thought process there?

John Cutler (00:34:21):

Well, we've always thought of Amplitude as being about supporting the full product loop. Think collect data, inform bets, ship experiments and learn. That's the heart of growth to us. So, the big aha was seen how many customers were using Amplitude to analyze experiments, use segments for outreach and send data to other destinations. Experiment and CDP came out of listening to and observing our customers.

Lenny (00:34:42):

And supporting growth and learning has always been Amplitude's core focus, right?

John Cutler (00:34:46):

Yeah. So, Amplitude tries to meet customers where they are. We just launched starter templates and have a great scholarship program for startups. There's never been a more important time for growth.

Lenny (00:34:55):

Absolutely agree. Thanks for joining us, John, and head to to get started.

Adam Grenier (00:35:01):

I also come from a very consumer perspective. I'm actually stronger on B2B companies using podcasting, because it has that exact same value I just described, but each one of their customers is substantially more valuable. So, they don't need the scale that a consumer application or product would need.

Lenny (00:35:20):

Yep. That's exactly who I work with usually. One last question on this topic. What percentage of the time do you find that an emerging channel works? Is it like 20% of the time, 10%, 5%? What should people estimate, it's probably not going to work but when it does it's going to be game changing?

Adam Grenier (00:35:34):

Like 5% of the time. There's new things popping up all the time. I think the area that I think of as emerging that I've found more success in is taking things that exist already and make them... so the two slices of it are either it's existed for a long... like podcasting. So, it existed for a long time and now we're finally getting to a spot where it feels scalable. The other is existing channels that introduce something brand new.

Adam Grenier (00:36:04):

So, at the mobile ads I described on Facebook, pre mobile install ads and post. Those first 18 months of mobile install felt like an emerging channel, right? Because they were changing the product every week and tracking didn't work, and there were all these funky problems with it even though Facebook had been around forever. But brand spanking new channels, I don't know, they rarely work or are worth the effort early that you hope that they will be.

Lenny (00:36:35):

Cool. But when they work, it's game changing I imagine. Reminds me Apples coming out with Apple TV, I think it was, and they're just like, "Hey Airbnb, you should make it app for Apple TV. It'll be huge." And there's a team put on it. I don't know. They spent a month building this app and did a bunch of nothing as far as I understand, but it felt good. It felt good to be part of the launch. One question I wanted to come back to, are there tools that you recommend for influencer marketing that you want to plug, or point out?

Adam Grenier (00:37:01):

We were using Grin at Masterclass, we onboarded them. So, there's probably half a dozen companies in that same zone where they're building tools that allow you to do the discovery of influencers, the CRM of those influencers, and also often the measurement and payments and all that kind of stuff. So, it's an all in one type of management platform. That being said though, like I said, it's still super manual. It's nice to be able to go and find this list of 50 influencers that are the exact right influencer for this class launch, or whatever it might be.

Adam Grenier (00:37:34):

But it's still then I have to wait till they all respond to me and there's still a lot of manual back and forth. So, that's probably one of them. I'm trying to think of... There's a few other in that same category that are competitive with Grin that they all seem equally pretty good. I can't even remember the reason we chose Grin over some of the other ones.

Lenny (00:37:53):

It's a good name.

Adam Grenier (00:37:53):

It was all pretty close.

Lenny (00:37:55):

Sweet. Okay. If any other comes to mind, we'll throw it in the show notes. Before we get to the growth CMO discussion, there's kind of this tangential area that I wanted to spend a little time on, which is this idea of as a startup you initially should and often do start with a very narrow audience, your early adopters. I read this post about calling them your super specific who, and eventually you want to cross the chasm and go broader. And you have some interesting insights on how to think about that, and when to do that. Can you talk about that?

Adam Grenier (00:38:26):

Yeah. So, I think the book, Crossing the Chasm, is a great place to start in terms of thinking about the broader topic of that. What I see missed a lot of the time that I like to spend time with people on is to really understand that those early adopters are often just drastically different than the broad audience. And spending time to actually figure that out and map out what you need to see with those early adopters to have confidence that the product is actually going to have product market fit beyond them.

Adam Grenier (00:39:07):

So, I don't have anything hyper specific to add to that necessarily, or happy to dig in deeper to it, but it's probably the biggest challenge that I've seen with a lot of companies that I've worked with. And then as I do more investing and things like that, it's probably the biggest flag that I see with a lot of companies that claim to have product market fit, which is your TAM and your product market fit are not using the same definition. And that problem I think is often just a red flag for a lot of companies that I meet.

Lenny (00:39:40):

Got it. So, essentially you often underestimate how challenging it'll be to grow from your initial early adopter crowd. Is there an example of that happening where a company just got screwed because they didn't think about that enough? Or is there something someone can do early on? Is it test a little bit more broadly early? What do you recommend there?

Adam Grenier (00:39:59):

I mean Clubhouse might be a good example in the sense that they leaned into the broader audience maybe quicker than they should have. Their product market fit seemed to fit the moment in time and could they have built some experiments, or tools, or features that maybe stress tested will this work in an ongoing fashion? If they were on such tear, that's a pretty hard decision to make, I'm sure.

Lenny (00:40:29):

So hard, it's easy in hindsight.

Adam Grenier (00:40:33):

I think that's another piece of it is that the audience changes aren't always just literal people. Even right now, one of the biggest pieces of advice I'm giving to people that are like, "How should we adjust our marketing with the economic changes and things like that?" I was like, "Start by assuming you no longer have product market fit, because you had product market fit in a different market. It's a different market now, so you have to start over."

Adam Grenier (00:40:57):

And hopefully you do, or it's pretty close to it and you just have to adjust a couple things and you can be right back on track. But if you just assume you need to launch a new channel to fix this problem, you're going to be wrong, because your entire customer base changed, not just the next 10% of customers that you're looking for.

Lenny (00:41:14):

It's just a reminder of how freaking hard startups are. Man, we have product market fit. Okay, we're done. Let's move on.

Adam Grenier (00:41:21):

Not anymore.

Lenny (00:41:21):

Not anymore. Oh man. Okay, sweet. So, onto this next topic around the Growth CMO. So, you're this really interesting combination of marketing brain and also very analytical growth person, and I think you refer to this as Growth CMO, which I don't actually hear the term much. So, I'm curious, what is a Growth CMO? How do you define it? And why is it important?

Adam Grenier (00:41:43):

Yeah, so it's something I've just spent a lot of the last few years thinking about, specifically because now I've been at a handful of companies where we've brought in CMOs that in all ways are absolute world class CMOs, and they don't last, they don't fit and they don't succeed. And so I've spent a lot of time and figuring, well, why not? Some of it coming because of spending time with those people being like, "Why are you doing it this way? That's not how a company at our stage operates."

Adam Grenier (00:42:18):

Trying to do it the way that a traditional CMO would've done marketing for a company, et cetera. One of the key examples I like to use is brand, in that everybody when they think about brand they think of it as an action, not as a consistent ongoing investment, or they think about it as campaigns and things like that. And from planning to execution to learnings, a traditional CMO will drive learnings and identify learnings. And in my mind, I think a Growth CMO is looking at each brand investment as how do you then immediately follow that up with the next one? How do you shift to this fast product iteration mindset with even things like brand?

Adam Grenier (00:42:58):

It's very possible, but it's so counter to a lot of traditional marketing DNA. That, to me, means that we have a lot of mismatch marketing leadership, and that quickly eliminates trust with the marketing organization. It means that we rename everything marketing to product led growth, or growth, or referral programs. To me, it actually dilutes the value of marketing should be playing in the company. And it doesn't mean that the traditional marketing CMO isn't a good fit for some companies.

Adam Grenier (00:43:37):

I think the direct to consumer products are still very well suited to have a more traditional CMO. But I think product driven companies, product led companies, if you are CMO and your product leader aren't married at the hip, you're just missing out on just tons of opportunity, and the likelihood of things actually working very well consistently and compounding on each other.

Lenny (00:44:05):

So, what are the attributes of this person of what you call a Growth CMO? Sounds like partly it's being much more performance driven. Sounds like a big part of it is understanding product and not creating these silos. We're going to market the thing, you guys go build this thing. But also as a person, that's a great CMO. What else do you look for?

Adam Grenier (00:44:22):

So, I would say so data driven generally. To me performance is a very loaded word in our world, because people think, especially in marketing, think that means not brand. But they're very data driven. And so when we take things like retention and even brand and the consideration funnel and, yes, you can't measure those exactly like you can measure landing page clicks and sales, but you absolutely can measure them. And making that part of the DNA of everything that's happening, data being part of that, I think is pretty quintessential of being a growth driven CMO.

Adam Grenier (00:45:00):

The second, I think, is the iteration process is not thinking about things and, "Hey, we need to plan for the next 24 months," but you can still do that and you can still have a vision and everything. But having that more of a agile type approach to everything. And again, this could be the storytelling that your sales people are doing, to what are your landing pages look like, to what is the design of your logo, to the brand itself. All of those things, like being more open to everything being possibly iterated on, on a regular basis using data to validate that and challenge what has worked for you.

Adam Grenier (00:45:38):

We live in such a real time world now, especially with product driven companies. The things change so quickly. If you as a marketing leader aren't being iterative and thoughtful about things with it, you'll get eaten alive. And then I think experimentation is just a huge piece of it. And something that I see a lot of more traditional marketing leaders, the idea of experimentation is try a new channel. It's not like how do we experiment with our brand? How do we experiment with the funnel? The whole picture, not just the top of the funnel or the external elements of it.

Adam Grenier (00:46:17):

One of the things that I haven't quite figured out the right language to put against this, but the traditional model of marketing is the four P's, product, placement, promotion, pricing. And in my mind, the world that we live in now, product is no longer a part of marketing, but it's actually they're married at the hip. They're one and the same, and most companies aren't operating that way. They're still operating as if they're two wildly different things. Even if they say they're working together, it's still, there's not. And to me it's just like, no, no, the product, it is the company now.

Adam Grenier (00:46:59):

And the marketing is integrated with literally every single piece of it. A lot of traditional marketing got established in the 1920s and the 1950s around products that took years to develop or try, or a product team was a science group trying new flavors of cereal. And so the marketing team owned the box, where it went on the shelf and what the price was and all of those kinds of things was marketing, because product was such a wildly different part of the organization. And I think still there's just a lot of fundamental things that marketers think about that are stuck in that world, because most haven't had to grow through the true growth of a business that's just being established today.

Lenny (00:47:53):

And the assumption is every software company should be hiring a CMO that is of this sort, of a Growth CMO, right?

Adam Grenier (00:48:01):

Yeah. And I would say that my sense is that there's very few marketing leaders that can't be a Growth CMO. So, I don't think you have to have come up as a performance driven experimentation. It's more about adapting and growing. And again, the fundamentals are all the same. One of my pet projects that I haven't done anything with yet, is that every time something new comes out in the growth world, I go back in history as far as I can to try to find the earliest example of that. Just to be able to say, "Look, this isn't new, but we can learn from the way that Coca-Cola invented the coupon."

Adam Grenier (00:48:37):

The first known coupon was Coca-Cola giving away Coke for free, but it was actually a marketplace, because what they would do is they would go to a town and they would go to the soda fountain and they would give a free Coke syrup to that side of the market and they would give coupons to the other side of the market to spark it, to get it going. And then it's like, well, now all the customers want Coke, now you need to supply it, you'll pay for it. And learning that and understanding that is really cool. And it's just interesting to me, because I'm a huge nerd.

Adam Grenier (00:49:09):

But that to me is all of the things that great marketing leaders have learned are right, it's the operating aspect of those insights and those skills and understanding your customer and their psychology. All of those things have stayed the same. It's the operating of it in the way a growth organization, like a product driven growth organization operates, is very fundamentally different than the way a traditional marketing run organization had run.

Lenny (00:49:37):

I was going to ask you what a marketing leader can do to evolve into this where you think things are going, and your point about you're capable of it, you can iterate and adapt is really great and empowering. Is there anything specific they can do to learn how to do this better, other than is it like mentorship? Is there classes, courses? Just do the job, figure it out? Do you have anything you can suggest there to folks listening and they're like, "Oh, shit. I'm in trouble?"

Adam Grenier (00:50:02):

Honestly, I think learn product development. Go learn agile product development. And there's actually a book called Hacking Marketing, I think. I'll confirm. But it's essentially how to run a marketing team on Agile. That to me is just, again, any great marketing leader should be able to go and consume how to do product development, how to run a product like sprints and those types of things. And their mind, if they're great marketing CMO or a CMO, will be like, "Oh my gosh, I could do this with this big event that we want to host. I could do this with everything."

Adam Grenier (00:50:43):

There's nothing off the table when you actually learn those fundamentals. But as well as I know smart people can learn that stuff. There's lots of resources out there. Reforge has some classes on it, there's a bunch of new product led growth classes out in the wild, like Maven I think has a couple. And there's a variety of those types of things that just going and doing it, you don't have to go and operate it yourself. You don't have to go become a product manager. But understanding those skills and those systems will, one, I think make you think differently about how to run your marketing team and, two, make you exponentially better at working with your product organization.

Lenny (00:51:21):

Awesome. I'm actually hearing from folks listening to this podcast not live right now, but broadly, that this is a good way to learn how product works and how product leaders think. So, that's interesting. So, if you're listening to this, good job. You also mentioned that a lot of marketing leaders don't work out at a company, they join, they leave, things go wrong. As a hiring founder or leader, what do you look for to tell you this person's probably not what we need and not what you'd call a Growth CMO? What are flags that are like they're probably not going to adapt and evolve to the way we want to operate?

Adam Grenier (00:51:53):

So, I think first and foremost, it obviously depends on the stage. Anything let's say C or below, comfortable with chaos and willingness to go do something they have not done for probably 15 years are two huge signals for me, because every company I've been part of at every scale now, which is all of them basically, that's the thing that a lot of people coming from more traditional marketing environments into startup worlds, it's a pace and just the unpredictability and change and those kinds of things are just at such a higher rate than they've seen for a long time that it can be really jarring for people.

Adam Grenier (00:52:49):

And I think it's totally reasonable. It's crazy, right? If anybody that's had the exposure on both sides. And then the willingness to go do the work. People are churning constantly and the challenges are different every week and those types of things. And so it's like every now and then you've got to go write an email or you've got to go open up Facebook and get into the weeds with it with your team, into the data of it and that type of stuff. And that's stuff that I don't want to do, personally, me. I'm past the point where I should be in Facebook.

Adam Grenier (00:53:17):

But man, when I need to, I'm willing to, and I'll go get in the weeds with it and I'll use my time to just be like, "Look, we have to figure this out now." And I'm going to go do the things that I thought I was done with in my career. So, those are pretty big ones. I think then generally speaking, one of the exercises I like to take founders through when they're hiring a marketing leader is every marketer is going to have a T-shaped career.

Adam Grenier (00:53:41):

Everybody came from something they probably became awesome at and then over time just expanded their purview. So, for me it was mobile. I got into mobile. My first client ever was on Sun Microsystems early 2000s, getting Java developers to make apps for flip phones. So, I just knew digital mobile world really, really well before a lot of people did. But then eventually I'm like, "Great, now I'm running an entire digital marketing team. Now I'm running an entire marketing team. Now I'm getting into growth. Now I want to learn product," and I've expanded. And so typically it's going through that exercise of find out their T, find out their strength, and then spend time figuring out how they make up for those other things.

Adam Grenier (00:54:24):

So, for me, at Lambda school I ran our PR team for a while. I am not a PR person, but I make it a goal in my life to get to the valley of despair of the Dunning-Kruger effect, to be like, "Great, I just need to know how bad I am at PR," because if I still think I'm good at it, that's not a good place for me to be. But once I know how bad it is, I now know I need to go hire the right person to come in and I'm going to listen to them. I'm not going to assume that I'm smarter than them, and those types of things. And so I think the same thing with product questions and data questions and experimentation questions for this concept of a Growth CMO is like, well, somebody's coming from a world where they've not had to work really closely with the product team, spend time with them to figure out how they plan on adapting to that.

Adam Grenier (00:55:12):

My guess is most won't have thought of that. The good ones will be able to figure it out together with you in that interview, or afterwards, or whatever it might be.

Lenny (00:55:22):

Awesome. Maybe one day we'll do a follow-up chat just to dive into hiring a marketing person. I know that's a whole deep topic.

Adam Grenier (00:55:31):

Lots of thoughts.

Lenny (00:55:31):

Okay. Oh man. Okay. We've got to book that. But, okay. So, you mentioned the valley of despair, and that's a good segue to our next topic. So, I found this old tweet of yours where you talk about burnout and depression, and you kind of make this point that a lot of times you feel like it's burnout and it's actually depression. And just broadly mental health is just this topic that's not really spoken a lot about in tech and in business. And so I'd love to just spend a little time on this. I know you're a big proponent of talking about these sorts of things, so I'm curious, I know you've been through both these things and I'm curious just to hear your journey, what that's been like, and what you've learned about how to get through it?

Adam Grenier (00:56:08):

So, the two biggest inputs for me in terms of really taking the time to understand my mental health, one is my wife, who's been a very strong proponent of mental health resources for everybody since I met her. And so just being able to learn from her and get exposure to, well, why is this important? What are the values of it? And seeing it pretty regularly of family members, or coworkers. Or it's like, oh man, I bet there's something deeper here that maybe is important for them to figure out.

Lenny (00:56:46):

Is that just something she's good at, or is she trained in this stuff?

Adam Grenier (00:56:49):

No, she's good at it and she's in therapy and stuff like that. She's one of the most empathetic, passionate people I've ever met in my life. And so she just feels like poor people so much that I think it's something really important to her. And then at Uber, I got to a spot where I was incredibly exhausted and tired and just down, not excited about work and things like that, and so I started going to therapy and with this assumption that I was just working too hard.

Adam Grenier (00:57:20):

That was kind of my like, "Man, I need to go to therapy to figure out the tools that I need to deal with me working too hard." And I just uncovered so many interesting things that I wouldn't have expected. So, one was that I'm the youngest child in my family and I did something pretty different than a lot of my relatives and things like that. So, recognition is something I long for, and it turns out I get that at work and I just hadn't gotten that in other parts of my life. And so this thing that I'm like, "This is my problem," was actually a solution to my real problem.

Adam Grenier (00:57:58):

And knowing that just helped me totally just change my perspective of how hard I work. I was getting judgemental about myself around, "Man, I'm working too hard. I shouldn't be doing this, but I have to." And then I got in the spot where I'm like, "Oh, I'm working hard because I love it, because I like it, I'm having an impact and I'm working with people I like and people respect the work that I do." And that helped me identify that I can work just as hard, but I can work smarter. I can work more on the things I have impact on.

Adam Grenier (00:58:30):

I can work more with people that actually respected the type of work that I'm doing. And that actually just started to relax me and get me to the spot of, "Oh, okay," I still some burnout in there, and that's part of the innovation. Part of my title was that I got to a spot where I'm like, I was traveling constantly, I had teams all over the world and the structure of Uber was working where every city had a GM and I was the person they called when their spend was too high. And so 500 GMs-

Lenny (00:59:05):

Uber GMs especially.

Adam Grenier (00:59:06):

Yeah, exactly. And so I was working in a world where I was dealing with a lot of politics. I love mentoring people, and I had this massive team of 150 people that I barely know any of them. And so I'm not mentoring people either anymore. And I just felt like I'm working so hard on things that I actually don't enjoy. And so I'm like, I'm going to go work on flying cars, which is a whole other podcast too. So, that was my, okay, there was burnout in there.

Adam Grenier (00:59:33):

I know that was a fact, but some of those feelings or things that I felt my entire life that I uncovered that I thought was just burnt out, I was like, "Oh, actually at this point in my life, this point in my life and this point in my life, I felt this way too. And at those points I wasn't burnt out. And so I actually have deeper work to do here and deeper understanding of myself so that I can actually maximize my life and enjoy it." And because I'm going to keep working to some degree this hard. And I want to just make the most of that.

Lenny (01:00:03):

I don't know if you mentioned this, but I imagine parts of those points were depression, not burnout. What have you found to be that line of just like, "Oh wow, this is a lot more serious than I'm just working way too hard?"

Adam Grenier (01:00:14):

For me, it's hard to describe, but I personally now can pretty cleanly tell the difference between exhaustion and depression. And it tends to tie to my broader motivations, not just my motivation to work. So, when I'm exhausted, I'll still show up to work, I'll still execute, I'll still do those types of things, but I'm going to go and if I can take an improv class, it's going to be a blast. I'm going to enjoy it and I'm going to love it. If I'm depressed, I won't go to that improv class. I'll just cancel it. I won't go to it. Or if I go to it, I'll go home immediately. One of the things I love about actual improv classes, is the community. Is, "Hey, let's all go grab a drink now." And this is a totally different group of people. It's not my family, it's not my work people, it's just me.

Adam Grenier (01:01:17):

And I wouldn't do that. And so it's kind of noticing where else is this impacting and to what degree and why, can help me understand what's going on in my life. Because more often than not, I can then take those feelings and it'll be like, "Oh, I've felt this way for three weeks now. I should think about this and dissect it a little bit." And so again, I'll spend time with my therapist. One of the tools that my therapist has given me is to open up with my friends and have these conversations with my friends. And so now I went from five, six years ago really just having my therapist or my wife to talk about this kind of stuff to, I don't know, I have five or six different friends that we're massively transparent with each other about this stuff, because the second I shared any of this with them, they shared it with me.

Adam Grenier (01:02:06):

And now we've become safe places to have those conversations where I can be like, "Hey, there's this thing going on." My dad has ALS and so he's been really sick and I've got three kids and I've got jobs and work and money and the market crash. And there's so many different things. It's like, okay, let me actually figure out which one of these things is causing this energy right now. And having many years of therapy now and those resources can help me get to that solution to get to that answer so that I can figure out, okay, what do I need to do right now? Do I need to actually take time for myself and dig deeper into these personal things? Do I actually need to change something with the shape of my career? Those types of things.

Lenny (01:02:47):

Awesome. And it sounds like the things that have been most helpful, and I'm curious what else you'd recommend to folks that are maybe feeling some of this. So, it sounds like therapy is really powerful, your partner and being open to your partner, finding a group of friends where you could be transparent about these sorts of things. Is there anything else you suggest folks look into?

Adam Grenier (01:03:04):

Yeah. So, I think meditation's a good one. The startup people love to talk about meditation, and so you can find lots of ways to do that. It's kind of evolved for me. So, it's in that tweet thread and I can't remember it now. There was a meditation thing that was the first, it almost felt like Noom for me for meditation where it wasn't just-

Lenny (01:03:24):

Waking Up, Sam Harris's-

Adam Grenier (01:03:25):

Yeah, Waking Up where it's like I'm actually learning about meditation, not just learning how to meditate. And that's how my brain likes to do things. I'm a lifetime learner, I love digging into things. I learned breathing techniques and things like that, but going through that program of Waking Up was the first time I actually really appreciated when and how and where to do it. I'm still not a everyday meditate person.

Adam Grenier (01:03:50):

I now use, I'm an investor, so I'm biased, but Aura, A-U-R-A, which is a marketplace app. It's some of the other meditation apps, but it's a marketplace, so it's actually coaches and stuff adding content. So, I use that now as needed, which I really enjoy. The exercise and diet and those types of things definitely tie to it. It's like eating is a pretty clean signal for me, or snacking is a really clean signal, at least for me of like, okay, I'm snacking more than I should be, and eating healthy can both help me identify that I'm in those spots, but also just make me feel better.

Adam Grenier (01:04:29):

One thing I would say is that the therapist that I found, I found through a service that we had at Uber, and I think I was surprised how much stuff is covered by companies in terms of the ability to find a therapist, pay for a therapist or other tools. And so that's one thing I would suggest, go look through your benefits. Your healthcare provider offers a lot of that stuff too. So, those are a handful of. Listen to Lenny's podcast?

Lenny (01:04:58):

I hope that to be true. I don't know if that's anywhere near as powerful as these other things. One thing I'll mention is on the meditation front, there's this amazing book that kind of does exactly what you also describe where it teaches you why this works. It's called, it's kind of like a bad title, it's called Why Buddhism is True. And it's not trying to convince you to be a Buddhist, but it has a lot of incredible insights on why meditation is so powerful and how to think about it. So, I'll put that in the show notes too.

Adam Grenier (01:05:24):


Lenny (01:05:24):


Adam Grenier (01:05:24):

I'm going to check that out.

Lenny (01:05:25):

I wanted to come back to the burnout piece. I imagine some folks are listening to this and they're like, "Am I burnt out? I don't know." What are signs that you're burnt out versus just working a lot and tired?

Adam Grenier (01:05:37):

The one that I see the most is adaptability goes down really fast. And this is more me noticing I've managed a lot of people and coached a lot of people, so when I see that from people that I'm working with, I usually immediately bring up, I'm like, "Look, your openness to change in the business, or trying new things, or going back and trying things that maybe we tried before and didn't work has shifted from, 'Oh, here are the flags that we should be aware of, but let's give it a shot' to 'Why are we wasting our time? Let's not do this.'"

Adam Grenier (01:06:12):

This energy around, let's just do the thing we're supposed to do. And I think that's maybe specifically applicable to our environment, to high growth and marketing and product where it's just, that's just a key ingredient to doing this job well, is adaptability and flexibility and exploration. And if you're losing that, it's probably not because you've gotten bad at it, right? It's probably because you're just over it, right? Where you're like, "I just don't want to deal with the BS around this. I want to go do the thing that makes my job easier."

Adam Grenier (01:06:46):

Which again, most of the people that have chosen this career path want their jobs to be harder, because it's more fun, it's more interesting, it's more rewarding. And so when you're looking for ways to minimize the challenge or the opportunity, I think that's a pretty good signal that they may be more burnt out than just exhaustion. Because if anything, I see the opposite for people that are exhausted, where they get re-motivated by new stuff, by opportunities to go do something different and that kind of stuff.

Lenny (01:07:15):

Wow. Really good insight. Second to last question, I know you have to run, where are you on this journey today and then just what's next for Adam Grenier?

Adam Grenier (01:07:24):

Yeah, thank you. Good question. I'm constantly optimizing this matrix of what am I good at versus what do I love doing? And so what I've found is that I really love entrepreneurs and working really closely with entrepreneurs and helping them figure out all of these funky things that I've been able to see over the last 20 years and maneuver. And I've worked at a lot of places and so I'm really good at context changing and helping connect the dots for people.

Adam Grenier (01:07:52):

And so a couple ways I've found to be able to do that is advising companies, so working with founders and growth leaders and things like that and investing. And so I'm actually right now, I've been investing now for six, seven years. I've recently joined Andreessen's Scout fund, so I'm doing a bit more volume now. But I would say if I had to make a bet right now, I think a full-time or closer to full-time investing world is what I'd like to lean more towards. But I'm very much a let's just open up opportunities, and once the right one is in front of me, I'm going to tackle it.

Adam Grenier (01:08:23):

And so who knows, I may go back full time somewhere or whatnot. But right now the advising, investing, coaching kind of hybrid is the term, I think it was Behzod at Reforge used, was me as a service is my current world. But I'd be shocked if I eventually don't gravitate towards some kind of foundation, because I thrive when I've got a little bit of an anchor.

Lenny (01:08:46):

Amazing. A mass, me as a service.

Adam Grenier (01:08:49):


Lenny (01:08:49):

Okay. For folks that may want to reach out to you about taking your money in their startup, or asking whatever questions, maybe advising questions, where can folks reach you and learn more?

Adam Grenier (01:09:00):

Just Twitter, AKGrenier and LinkedIn as well, it's AKGrier. So, look me up, connect. I'm always open to connecting and chatting with people and I just love digging into problems. So, happy to abide.

Lenny (01:09:13):

Amazing. Adam, this was such an action packed chat, so many levels and layers. I can't wait for folks to listen to this. Thank you so much for joining me and being here.

Adam Grenier (01:09:21):

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Lenny (01:09:22):

My pleasure. Thanks man.

Adam Grenier (01:09:24):

Good stuff. Take care.

Lenny (01:09:26):

Thank you so much for listening. If you found this valuable, you can subscribe to the show on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. Also, please consider giving us a rating or leaving a review as that really helps other listeners find the podcast. You can find all past episodes or learn more about the show at See you in the next episode.