Recently, I sat down and was privileged to have a chat with Bob Meese. Bob is the chief revenue officer at Duolingo, the world’s most popular way to learn a language. At Duolingo, Bob is responsible for driving the company’s revenue growth.
During Bob’s time at Duolingo, their run rate has increased from one million to over 100 million, which is quite an impressive feat. Before working at Pittsburgh-based Duolingo, Bob spent eight years at Google as head of game business development for Google Play and its principal New Business Development Group. But even before that, Bob, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, attended Penn College, where he received degrees in economics and computer science. He also received his MBA from MIT. I’ve shared highlights from our talk in this article.
Let’s start with where your work journey began. Hailing from the East Coast, and then attending college there as well, how was it that you ended up “out West” at Google?
“I knew I wanted to spend my career in tech… The earlier part of my career was done in Boston, but Silicon Valley was calling. [Everything before was] just building up to that. It’s a great company, and I was really excited when I got the opportunity to join.”
What are some of the most important things that you learned during your time at Google and have brought “back East” with you?
Bob shared a couple of critical things he learned at Google. The first thing is that Google’s hiring process is spot on. The company takes its time to be picky, letting roles go unfulfilled until the right fit is found to fill them—a hire who is not only impressive and skilled but who is also going to contribute to creating what Bob calls “a positive group dynamic,” that makes it “worth waiting to get the right people into the right seats.”
Bob cited a second vital thing he learned at Google: how to manage the chaos that surrounds any hyper growth endeavor. Bob explained, “You’re not going to get everything right, but I really learned prioritization.”
I can imagine! I kind of think of it as getting thrown into the deep end of the pool. The real way to learn that is to be inundated with work. You can talk about it theoretically, but until you have to survive it, you really don’t know how to manage it.
Agreeing, Bob added, “Your habits change very quickly, or you won’t survive that environment!”
Okay, let’s fast forward to Duolingo and how you became connected to the founders, Luis and Severin Hacker.
“The person who made the connection for me to Luis and Severin was Andrew Moore,”and according to Bob, once the trio was introduced, Bob knew, “It was just the right company and the right role at the right time.”
Although Luis had already proven himself as a well-seasoned (and successful) entrepreneur with his work with reCAPTCHA, the company needed Bob’s expertise. “Luis is an amazing fundraiser and an amazing leader of companies. At the time that I joined, the key problem to be solved was monetization.
“There’s this balance of fulfilling the mission, having this real high-quality free product, and [then asking], ‘Okay, how do [we] also build a really big business?’… That was a really big challenge at that time, which was something that I came in to help them with.”
So how did Bob help do this specifically? Head to listen to our full podcast interview to find out details on that, as well as to hear more of Bob’s insights on:
· Fast experimentation in regards to successful scaling
· Best business models for monetizing products
· Surefire approaches to experimentation and testing (including discussion of AB Tests and OKRs)
· Employee retention
There’s much more, but I will leave you with perhaps the most tantalizing teaser to make you want to head on over to the podcast: You’ll definitely want to find out why Bob thinks that Pittsburgh just might be the next fast frontier…