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Achieving Hockey Stick User Growth: OAuth2 Can Help

How user authentication can help grow your business

The goal of every business is to have a hockey stick growth.

Image courtesy of The Hockey Stick Principles, Flatiron Books

The most difficult years for any startup are the ‘Blade Years’, which is when you dive into the company full-time without the safety net of a paying job and start eroding your savings.

There are a few guidelines on how to get out of that long stretch of slow growth, but they are just that - guidelines, not answers. It is up to you the founder to combine those guidelines with the product and industry knowledge to figure out product-market fit.

Luckily with modern tools, you don’t have to go through those dark days alone. You can tap on various web services to cobble together a minimum viable product (MVP) and quickly iterate to get out of the woods quickly.

One essential component that all online businesses need is user authentication and management. They come in different shapes and sizes from various vendors, but social logins (also known as OAuth2) is unique because they have the magic to help your business achieve the elusive hockey stick growth.

Social logins can be unwieldy to work with:

To implement properly, you need to coordinate multiple flows across three different parties to complete the user authentication process: the end-user, your web service, and the OAuth2 provider.

OAuth2 standards are loosely defined resulting in each social login/OAuth2 provider, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. Each has its own peculiarities, making developer lives painful.

Enter OAuth.io

Social Login and OAuth2 Simplified

OAuth.io simplifies implementing social logins. You can have a social login button on your webpage with just 10 lines of code (HTML & Javascript), and no server modifications required.


<a id="google-button" class="btn btn-block btn-social btn-google">
<i class="fa fa-google"></i> Sign in with google



$('#google-button').on('click', function() {
 // Initialize with your OAuth.io app public key
 OAuth.initialize('YOUR OAUTH.IO PUBLIC KEY');
 OAuth.popup('google').then(provider => {
  provider.me().then(data => {
     alert('provider says your email is:' + data.email);


OAuth.io simplifies implementing social logins for any OAuth2 provider by exposing a consistent API endpoint that conforms to the OAuth2 standard while hiding the vagaries in each OAuth2 provider’s peculiarities.


Now that we have demonstrated how OAuth.io can simplify social login/OAuth2, let us look at the three phases of growth that OAuth2 can help with and hear three customer stories on how they used OAuth2 to navigate growth.

The Social Login/OAuth2 Hockey Stick User Growth

The Social Login/OAuth2 hockey stick user growth contains 3 phases that map to ‘blade years’, ‘growth inflection point’, ‘surging growth’.


Blade Years: Acquiring Users Seamlessly Through Social Login and Social Media

Imagine you have a web service that users would love to try but upon hitting your website, it prompts them to create an account; 86% of users will be annoyed and leave. They do not want to spend 5 minutes to think of another difficult password, which they will not remember later, nor do they want to reuse a password from another account for security reasons.

Use case: A popular coffee franchise in Japan with hundreds of stores across the country wanted to offer free wifi in all their stores. In return, they hoped to be able to reach out to the users about promotions, etc. Asking for just an email from the users in unobtrusive but unreliable for the franchise, while enforcing email confirmation burdens the users and turns them away.

Knowing that most of their users belong to the Instagram generation, the franchise introduced ‘Login With Instagram’, enabling users to conveniently log in with just a click, while still enabling the franchise to engage the users more effectively. This also has a side-effect of increasing the franchise's Instagram presence through check-ins & photos, which tremendously boost the brand's visibility.

Growth Inflection Point: Curate User Data Without Violating Privacy Regulation

In this example, imagine you have proven that you found a product market fit. Lots of users are flocking to your site. Now you want to curate user activity data so that you can analyze their behaviour to improve your business efficiency and offer valuable insights to create network externality.

Use case: A resume creator site introduced ‘Login With LinkedIn’ button to enable any user to transfer their work history onto the site in order to generate a professional-looking resume, which they can send a pdf version to hiring company by keying in the email. To create more user value, and monetize the service, the site encourages the user to provide the URL of the job opening so that it can recommend similar jobs that other candidates have also applied for. On top of that, the service can determine which candidates were successful when the company replies, and it can analyze successful resumes, and recommend best practices.

Users are not enamoured when too much of their data is being stored, and European citizens can invoke Generate Data Protection Regulation to enforce their right-to-be-forgotten. The failure to comply is a EU10M or 2% annual global revenue fine, whichever is higher.

OAuth.io has a User Management module that can seek user consent store user data in the cloud, and allow each user to view the data being stored, and delete them as they wish, enabling compliance with GDPR, and other privacy laws. However, prior deletion, User Management also stores aggregated data that has been de-personalized, which is still useful to power their job and resume writing recommendation engine.

Surging Growth: Unleash Your Data, Become a Platform

For this example, imagine you organize activities for a group of people, but as the members swell, the organization is no longer scalable. You want to collaborate with external services that makes organization easier as well as create more value for your users in terms of convenience in participation and offer deals for activity-related stuff.

Use case: An enterprising organizer ran a forum to organize soccer games on weekends. Over time, as members grew, it is no longer scalable to organize; members have different skill-levels, live in different areas, are available at different times, etc. This made hunting for soccer grounds, booking them, ensuring people turn up and paid money painful for the organizer.

On the other side of the fence, there are soccer ground owners looking to fully utilize the grounds. There are soccer goods companies trying to offload last season’s products or promote the coming season’s new gear.

With many users and a lot of data, he wanted to unleash them by becoming a platform to monetize them. He implemented OAuth server on top of his forum server, enabling anyone to tap on his users and their data (with the users’ permission, of course). He can work with soccer ground owners, soccer goods companies, etc., by promoting them on his forum through links, and in return, the soccer grounds and soccer goods website can introduce social login, which makes it extremely easy for the users to log in and book various soccer grounds or purchase soccer goods without having to create a different username/password for each soccer ground or goods website. Other developers can build an app to gather members for the games, as well as collect payment. The end result: win-win-win for all 3 parties: forum owner, the members, and external services (soccer grounds, soccer goods companies, developers). The win-win-win will create a very strong network externality that will attract even more members, and external services making the web service unstoppable.


To summarize, here is how OAuth2 can help achieve hockey stick growth.

Blade Years: By carefully considering the types of users already available through different social logins, you can introduce appropriate social logins to tap on those group of users who are potentially logged in to make it seamless for them to become your users.

Growth Inflection Point: You can curate user activity on your service, and utilize them to create more value for your users, e.g., offering recommendations based on other user activities that are related to a user. However, it is important to be able to do so without violating privacy laws.

Surging Growth: With a lot of users and data, you can become a platform to monetize them in a way that is win-win-win for yourself, the users, and external parties that can provide services to the users by offering convenience ordeals. This win-win-win will generate a powerful network externality for your business to become a unicorn.

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