A VC Perspective on Product Management


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  • o   Product vision – identifying the customer base and passionately sharing their viewso   Does the PM use the product like an actual user?  Google AdWords anecdote about approval bin.o   Ability to articulate roadmap and hit agreed upon milestones.  This is absolutely killer and can mean life or death in a startup.o   Balance between keeping the trains running and iterative or revolutionary product changes.  A well managed product roadmap should be part both.·         What PMs should expect from VCso   Most VCs are not product managers at all – manage feedback carefully.  Don’t be set off on quixotic whims.o   Validate ideas versus rationale of feedback you get from VCs. o   VCs are usually well studied on markets but not necessarily products; know how to separate that.o   At later stage startups with a product org, work with the CEO to buffer VC feedback.
  • A VC Perspective on Product Management

    1. 1. The VC Perspective of Product Management<br />July 2011<br />Prepared by Rob Kniazrob@hoxtonventures.com<br />
    2. 2. Background<br />Rob Kniaz<br />(Age 32)<br />Hoxton Ventures (UK), Partner<br />Fidelity Ventures (UK)<br />VC<br />Google(Mountain View and London)<br />Early AdSense product manager in Mountain View; AdSense front-end PM 2004-2006 <br />Launched new Google AdWords Referralproducts, delivering $100M+/year incremental revenue<br />PM leader for $85m acquisition of Feedburner<br />Intel(Santa Clara, Portland, and Latin America)<br />Regional market development manager, Northern Cone, Latin America Region<br />University of Maryland - BS Computer Science<br />Stanford University - Management Science<br />Product Management & Marketing &<br />Edu<br />
    3. 3. Product Management at Google (and Silicon Valley to an extent)<br />Very flat organization with frequent level-skipping for decision making<br />Not uncommon for junior PMs to present to founders<br />PMs are the General Manager of their products.<br />No B.S. PMs in the end own their product’s success and are expected to own failure and learn & iterate on it.<br />Engineers report to engineering but milestones are owned by PM.<br />PMs responsible for sorting priorities then working with engineering to deliver.<br />
    4. 4. VC Perspective of Product Management - Overview<br />Sadly, many European VCs don’t value/understand PM.<br />Particularly in Europe, it’s not common to see VCs with product background. Less the case in the Valley.<br />VC/product management relationship changes over time.<br />With early stage startups, the CEO is in fact the product manager and shapes product direction. As startups evolve to orgs with different requirements, PMs need to adapt to suit different investor needs.<br />Startup PMs need to know what to expect from their VCs (and vice versa).<br />The VC/CEO relationship involves PMs who need to know how to interface with VCs and manage expectations and deliverables.<br />
    5. 5. Stages of venture investment and VC expectation<br />Seed/angel investment<br />$100k-$1M investment<br />CEO as first product manager<br />Heavy VC involvement in product decisions typical<br />Series A investment<br />$1M-$10M investment<br />First PMs come on board, usually reporting to CEO<br />VC/PM interaction more hands-on.<br />Series B/C/growth-equity investment<br />$10M+ investment<br />PM organization built<br />VC/PM interaction limited, usually through CEO<br />
    6. 6. What VCs look for from Product Managers<br />1) Product Vision.<br />It’s exceptionally important that PMs have a strong vision of the product.<br />Do they use the product as an actual end user would?<br />Can they build a roadmap from this product vision?<br />
    7. 7. What VCs look for from Product Managers<br />2) Team Development & Hiring.<br />Can this PM or CEO hire the right people in the organization to grow it to the next stage?<br />Do they have the right skillset to lead or otherwise find their right role in the org and share the responsibility?<br />Are they able to develop leaders underneath them?<br />
    8. 8. What VCs look for from Product Managers<br />3) Execution<br />Can this PM define, then execute on the product vision and roadmap?<br />This is one of the most key and hard skills to gauge but crucial especially in early stage startups. <br />
    9. 9. What PMs should expect from VCs<br />Most VCs aren’t and haven’t been product managers<br />Manage feedback carefully and prioritize. Watch out for quixotic leads.<br />“I’ll add it to the roadmap” is a safe way of deflecting.<br />Work with CEO if possible to buffer direct feedback.<br />Know how to separate rationale from ideas<br />Often VCs are experts on markets but not products directly. Try and understand the underlying concept they may be pushing under the guise of a single idea.<br />
    10. 10. Questions?<br />