Product Managers and Startups


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Presentation I did for ProductCamp Utah on what it means to be a product manager at a startup. It can be summarized by saying it is a scientific endeavor.

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  • This is the normal world of product management, with the various stages feeding into each other in a (hopefully) virtuous cycle. Things are a bit different at startups...\n\n(Build 1) There isn't enough information to generate a real business case. Instead, early decisions are often made by gut feel. It is really important for a PM to recognize this and work to correct it by gathering real data.\n\n(Build 2) Plan on doing more than crunching numbers about ROI on features. You are often the best user experience person on the team. I spend time in mockup tools and in photoshop to save the capital a designer would cost.\n\n(Build 3) One really nice thing about the startup environment is small teams means management is just chatting, not so much gandt charts.The downside is everybody needs to be exceedingly versatile to cover staff shortages. Plan on doing QA work, but that is a good time to review features.\n\n(Build 4) Proof. Yeah, that's funny. Like there is anybody else to write it.\n\n(Build 5) Very early on, there isn't much training because there isn't much of a sales staff. At this point, sales are often happening by pre-committing features. At this stage, that is OK! Cash flow is king early, so don't be afraid of sales leading the product; it means there is a market. Your job is to understand *why* so you can begin leading that market.\n\n(Build 6) Many PMs think in terms of the "perfect" release, with all the right features laid out just right. That kind of thinking kills startups. Instead, think of the minimum it takes to make your product's value understood. You want quick releases and early feedback from customers, so you don't spend time building useless junk and allows you to pivot earlier if things aren't working out. Eric Ries and Lean Startups.\n\n(Build 7) Depending on the stage of the startup, don't be surprised if you are making sales calls. I'm not a sales guy, but I've been out there. I look at them as great opportunities to understand the real customer pains I'm trying to solve. Even if you have sales people, make sure you are going with them very regularly for those reasons.\n\n(Build 8) The previous step and these two really all combine into what is known as customer development. Startups don't really understand who their customers are, what exactly their pains are, nor why they would buy from you. Think of a startup as a science experiment: every feature, every communication, every interaction is a data sample. You have a hypothesis about the experiment, your job as the PM is to prove or disprove the hypothesis. That can only be done outside the building and needs to be done as cheaply as possible to give you as many iterations on the experiment as possible.\n\nAnd with the results of those experiments, we are back at the beginning of the circle, but now armed with knowledge for the next arguments.\n
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  • R&D: Rip Off and Design: 2/3 of successful startups use this method. Start by copying somebody else, but tweak it until you find blue ocean.\n\nSharpen the Angle: how you present your idea matters. This is from a book called BoomStart from BYU professors. UPMA had a wonderful presentation a few months ago.\n\nNeed to believe\nReason to believe\nBlows away expectations\nQuantifiable support\nUnique product claim\n\nChasing customers and being market drivers: Only when we have customers will we have a hope of finding a market. Therefore, chasing customers takes priority. The goal, though, is to do it in a way that opens anew market. When Canon got into copiers, they did it by finding customers who didn't want to go wait for the big Xerox, so they made small office copiers, opening a new market.\n\nTeaching product management to the team: everybody on the team needs to understand the discovery process, if for no other reason than to keep them from thinking you and the company are schizophrenic.\n
  • If I had one take away to leave you, it is startups are a big science experiment.\n
  • Confirmation Bias: Proving your hypothesis correct instead of proving it incorrect. I have a sequence of numbers (2,4,6). Ask me questions to find the patterns.\n\nMisaligned motivations: what you are expecting to see greatly colors what you actually see. How many times do you notice the bad calls by a ref against your team but not the other? \n\nOverconfidence in our capabilities: The more confident we are in our abilities and our knowledge, the less we will question ourselves. This can be particularly troubling in startups because it takes a certain amour of hubris to start a company.\n\nFamiliarity (being too close): We overemphasize variables we see often and underemphasize variables we see infrequently. The classic example: are you more likely to die by shark or by bee? In startups, we see this exhibited often as looking at a subset of solutions based on the space we already know. Poloroid had great digital technology, but they " knew" film, so that's what they focused on, right up until film put them out of business.\n
  • It is massively important that you monitor for confirmation bias here. It is easy to test for which shade of blue is perfect and lose out altogether on the fact that red is really the "right" color.\n
  • It is massively important that you monitor for confirmation bias here. It is easy to test for which shade of blue is perfect and lose out altogether on the fact that red is really the "right" color.\n
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  • Product Managers and Startups

    1. 1. PMs and Startups
    2. 2. Travis JensenMost of my career at small companiesStarted as a developerFirst PM experience was an enterprisesoftware companyCurrently PM at ClickLock, a very small startupHave moonlighted with several other startupsas a PM
    3. 3. AgendaWhats Different about PMing at Startups?Customer DevelopmentPM HabitsGetting Stuff Done
    4. 4. Types of Startups RiskCustomer Technology Web ConsumerSoftware Electronics Enterprise Biotech Software
    5. 5. Types of Startups Risk Customer Technology Web ConsumerSoftware Electronics Enterprise Biotech Software
    6. 6. Argue with Founders
    7. 7. Argue with Founders Design Product
    8. 8. Argue with Founders Design Product QA
    9. 9. Argue with Founders Design Product QA
    10. 10. Argue with Founders Design Product QA
    11. 11. Argue with Founders Design Product QAMinimum Viable
    12. 12. Argue with Founders Design ProductMake QA Minimum Viable
    13. 13. Argue with Customer FoundersDevelopment Design ProductMake QA Minimum Viable
    14. 14. Customer Development CustomersDiscovery Validation Creation Release Develop Small Planning ment Releases Product
    15. 15.
    16. 16. Verifying HypothesesQuestion: Who is my buyer? Experiment Hypothesis 1 2 3 Tal Talk to 10 Talk to 10 Bank CSO bank CSOs bank CMOs insu CS Talk to 10 Talk to 10 TalHospital Administrator hospital office doc admins managers
    17. 17. Good HabitsGetting out of the buildingCustomer validationPrioritizationDecisions by dataManaging chaos
    18. 18. Good Habits Gone BadReturn on investmentStrategic directionBig, important releasesChasing competitors and being marketdriven
    19. 19. New HabitsR&D: Rip Off and DesignSharpen the AngleChasing customers and being marketdriversTeaching product management to the team
    20. 20. Its a Science Experiment!
    21. 21. Common traps
    22. 22. Common trapsConfirmation bias
    23. 23. Common trapsConfirmation bias Misaligned motivations
    24. 24. Common trapsConfirmation bias Misaligned motivations Overconfidence
    25. 25. Common trapsConfirmation bias Misaligned motivations Overconfidence Familiarity
    26. 26. Common trapsConfirmation bias Misaligned motivations Overconfidence Familiarity Solution Develop an attitude of learning!
    27. 27. A/B Testing
    28. 28. A/B TestingStart with an actionablequestion!Build a hypothesisDevise your testMaintain a control!
    29. 29. ProcessKeep it SIMPLEAgile is YOURfriend!Its about movingquickly: thats youradvantage
    30. 30. WireframingUnderstand interactionsquicklyAllows faster handoffsKeeps ideas flowingEnables early customerfeedback
    31. 31. Other Tools I Use DropBox Skype BalsamiqSurvey Monkey 99 Designs MailChimp Elance Google Docs
    32. 32. What Else?
    33. 33. Founders!
    34. 34. Bill Campbell on the First Hire:I know that sounds like a strange answer, ProductMarketing, some people call it Product Management,but somebody who can really understand thedynamics of what goes on in a marketplace, applytechnology to that marketplace, see how thetechnology can work, and continue to advise brilliantscientists so they can adapt their products to makesure customers are happy.
    35. 35. Questions
    36. 36. Thank You! Travis Jensen
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