cowWhen children want to grow, they drink milk. When startups want to grow, the solution is not so simple. Rather than the slow-and-steady approach of a glass of milk a day, seven startups are coming together tomorrow at the first ever Growthathon to get a big ol’ dose of growth hormones.

The beginning of a startup’s life is well-documented. There are the Redbull fueled white boarding sessions, epic all-night coding marathons, and a constant stream of pitching. But once a product is built, launched, and attracting a respectable stream of users and perhaps even investment, many entrepreneurs wonder “what now?”

Growth, for a startup, can be a complicated balancing act of acquiring users, building a team, scaling to meet demand, entering new markets, expanding marketing efforts, and developing the product itself. The Growthathon is a conference and a hackathon where a group of entrepreneurs, engineers, marketing gurus, and mentors will come together to tackle distribution and acquisition issues.

“Most startups on the market have the same pain point of finding users,”  said Ken Zi Wang, founder of FanDrop, in an interview with VentureBeat. “Many startups spend months designing and engineering their products, but struggle to find the right distribution channels before running out of cash. This is an issue that relates to companies of all sizes.”

FanDrop is Wang’s third company. He is both an organizer and a participant of the event and said there is a strong need for this type of a community, particularly with all the discussion circulating about the “Series A Crunch,” where seeded startups cannot prove their product enough to attract institutional investment. Unlike angel investors or firms that focus on early-stage, traction is an important factor for venture capitalists to consider before doling out millions.

But how do you achieve this elusive and fickle traction? This is the nut the Growthathon will try to crack.

Aaron Ginn, the other instigator for this event, first got into “growth hacking” when the doors were about to close on his first startup. Faced with failure, he and his fellow team members hunkered down to keep their company afloat. He has turned that experience into a position as the Head of Growth at StumbleUpon and will act as a featured mentor at the Growthathon.

“Distribution is the number one challenge facing startups right now,” he said. “It is a saturated market and Silicon Valley is all about growth. As Paul Graham said, startup = growth. The difference between a startup and a small business is rapid growth, but people have forgotten that. At the Growthathon, we will want companies to know the core problem they are trying to solve, the core metrics, and what it will take to move it. We need the same diligence on the distribution side as we have on the product side.”

There are seven companies participating in the event- Fandrop, FamilyLeaf, ApartmentList, Carrot Mob, Intro, Wello, and Crowdtilt. Each will come to the event with a set of growth challenges and pose them to a group of experts. Over the course of the week, these “growth hackers” will play, experiment, and hack to achieve their goals. It will all culminate in an awards ceremony on December 15th when each team will present their progress and receive prizes, if deserving.

CrowdTilt is a startup that went through YCombinator and raised $2.1 million earlier this year. It was founded as a place where friends could pool their money together online for a specific purpose. Unlike Kickstarter and and Indiegogo which mostly feature creative and business projects, Crowdtilt focuses on enabling group experiences or shared causes. The company has been chugging along nicely, with large campaigns successfully “tilting” on the platform and a national use base. However, like with most consumer-facing startups, the more users, the better.

“We wanted to see how people unfamiliar with Crowdtilt would apply their ‘growth hacking’ skills to drive new traffic to our website,” said Marek Zareba, who deals with user acquisition at Crowdtilt. “We’re excited to listen to some out-of-the box ideas and see how quickly these teams can execute on their ideas.” 

In addition to the hackathon, the event will also feature expert talks, mentoring sessions, and networking opportunities. Wang said in the four weeks since they first had the idea, there have been tremendous displays of support and the project has grown into a “mini ecosystem.” It may not be as sexy as the excitement of getting an idea of the ground, but to build a legitimate, profitable, successful company, growth is key. Got milk?