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wealthfront.com

BE A GREAT PRODUCT LEADER

Adam Nash @adamnash
October 29, 2013
Optimus Prime

“Fate rarely calls upon us
at a moment of our
choosing”

wealthfront.com | 2
Full Circle:
World-Class Product
Original meeting with Reid Hoffman turned in a four
hour conversation on what world class product
meant in a Web 2.0 world (circa 2007).
Most people start or join new companies because
they think “we can do it better this time”. They
come to build a company.
These are the top lessons I’ve personally gained
over the past two decades about product
management for modern consumer software.

wealthfront.com | 3
What Do We Demand of
Product Managers?

1

Strategy

How do we win the game, and how do we keep
score?
Prioritization

What are the steps from here to there, and what
order do we do them in?
Execution

For this phase, what’s the list of what has to get
done, and are we on track?

wealthfront.com | 4
Product: Results Matter

2

In the end, we judge product managers by whether
they “win games”
The role itself can give limited authority. Like a new
coach, the team will let you define the plays initially.
But in the end, you have to show the team wins.
Product leaders don’t play the game, but they are
judged by the record of their products.
They cover any gaps. No excuses.
Responsibility, often without authority
wealthfront.com | 5
Put People Directly on
High Priority Goals

3

This may sound obvious, but it continues to be very rare in
practice. Diffuse responsibility is a killer.
It’s an expensive solution, but when you’ve identified the
few goals that matter, it’s exactly the right answer.
A small, cross-functional team, free to execute with clear,
direct goals and authority is an incredibly powerful force.
Example: Growth

wealthfront.com | 6
Prioritization: Three
Buckets

4

Metrics Movers

These pay the bills. In the end, software that doesn’t
justify itself will lose the ability to fund itself.
Customer Requests

If you don’t listen to customers, they will lose faith in
you and eventually hate you.
Delight

If you don’t delight customers, you won’t inspire
passion and loyalty in your users.

wealthfront.com | 7
Can’t I Have All Three?

4

It’s not impossible, but it’s extremely rare.
Very often, metrics movers are not requested or
delightful.
Very often, customer requests will not move your
metrics or delight people.
Very often, delight features will not move your
metrics, and by definition, are not requested.
Great products, however, combine all three. In agile
processes, releases intersperse all three regularly.
wealthfront.com | 8
Understanding Virality

5

One of the key insights of our growth strategy from 2008.
Extensible to literally all engagement features.
Key measure used by applications on social platforms. This is
an extremely useful frame.
Two questions: what features let members touch non
members? How does a new customer today lead to a new
customer tomorrow?
At the heart of virality is an exponential based on branching
factor and time. In an m^n equation, m is the branching
factor, n is the cycles in a time period.
Rabbits make lots of rabbits not because of big litters, but
because they breed frequently. “n” matters more than “m”.
wealthfront.com | 9
Engagement Can Be
Measured

6

Believe it or not, this issue has been hotly debated
Key metrics include:
• MAU / Total User Base
• DAU / MAU
• Actions / DAU
Don’t be afraid to learn from startups and/or
competitors. You are not always a unique snowflake.

wealthfront.com | 10
Find the Heat

7

There are two sides to boosting engagement: lowering the
friction of reaching out, and increasing the desire to
engage.
It’s easy to focus on the first and ignore the second, but
social software depends on capturing the real nuances of
human interaction.
Heat is a placeholder term for emotions that drive action,
both positive and negative. Emotion. Passion. Desire.
Ask yourself the hard questions of what strong emotions
drive the actions in your products.
Examples: Apply with LinkedIn
wealthfront.com | 11
Simple is Hard

8

For some reason, people are talking a lot about
Steve Jobs these days. Inevitably this concept
comes up.
It’s true in design, it’s true in metrics, it’s true in
prioritization, and it’s true in strategy.
What’s the one thing you want the user to do?
What’s the fundamental use case your feature
addresses for users?
Example: Mobile First design
wealthfront.com | 12
Einstein’s Razor

8

Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler
!
!
!

Simplicity is not an absolute ideal.

wealthfront.com | 13
Final Thoughts
We can be our own harshest critics. In the mirror
we see every flaw, every mistake, every
imperfection.
These are the very early years. Things that seem
small now can and will be huge in 5 years. Each of
you can and will have a profound impact on that
future.
Behavior matters. Values matter.
Be a Great Product Leader.

wealthfront.com | 14
Optimus Prime

“Thank you, all of you. 

You honor us with your
bravery.”

wealthfront.com | 15

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Be A Great Product Leader (Dropbox / AirBnB 2013)

  • 1. wealthfront.com BE A GREAT PRODUCT LEADER Adam Nash @adamnash October 29, 2013
  • 2. Optimus Prime “Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing” wealthfront.com | 2
  • 3. Full Circle: World-Class Product Original meeting with Reid Hoffman turned in a four hour conversation on what world class product meant in a Web 2.0 world (circa 2007). Most people start or join new companies because they think “we can do it better this time”. They come to build a company. These are the top lessons I’ve personally gained over the past two decades about product management for modern consumer software. wealthfront.com | 3
  • 4. What Do We Demand of Product Managers? 1 Strategy
 How do we win the game, and how do we keep score? Prioritization
 What are the steps from here to there, and what order do we do them in? Execution
 For this phase, what’s the list of what has to get done, and are we on track? wealthfront.com | 4
  • 5. Product: Results Matter 2 In the end, we judge product managers by whether they “win games” The role itself can give limited authority. Like a new coach, the team will let you define the plays initially. But in the end, you have to show the team wins. Product leaders don’t play the game, but they are judged by the record of their products. They cover any gaps. No excuses. Responsibility, often without authority wealthfront.com | 5
  • 6. Put People Directly on High Priority Goals 3 This may sound obvious, but it continues to be very rare in practice. Diffuse responsibility is a killer. It’s an expensive solution, but when you’ve identified the few goals that matter, it’s exactly the right answer. A small, cross-functional team, free to execute with clear, direct goals and authority is an incredibly powerful force. Example: Growth wealthfront.com | 6
  • 7. Prioritization: Three Buckets 4 Metrics Movers
 These pay the bills. In the end, software that doesn’t justify itself will lose the ability to fund itself. Customer Requests
 If you don’t listen to customers, they will lose faith in you and eventually hate you. Delight
 If you don’t delight customers, you won’t inspire passion and loyalty in your users. wealthfront.com | 7
  • 8. Can’t I Have All Three? 4 It’s not impossible, but it’s extremely rare. Very often, metrics movers are not requested or delightful. Very often, customer requests will not move your metrics or delight people. Very often, delight features will not move your metrics, and by definition, are not requested. Great products, however, combine all three. In agile processes, releases intersperse all three regularly. wealthfront.com | 8
  • 9. Understanding Virality 5 One of the key insights of our growth strategy from 2008. Extensible to literally all engagement features. Key measure used by applications on social platforms. This is an extremely useful frame. Two questions: what features let members touch non members? How does a new customer today lead to a new customer tomorrow? At the heart of virality is an exponential based on branching factor and time. In an m^n equation, m is the branching factor, n is the cycles in a time period. Rabbits make lots of rabbits not because of big litters, but because they breed frequently. “n” matters more than “m”. wealthfront.com | 9
  • 10. Engagement Can Be Measured 6 Believe it or not, this issue has been hotly debated Key metrics include: • MAU / Total User Base • DAU / MAU • Actions / DAU Don’t be afraid to learn from startups and/or competitors. You are not always a unique snowflake. wealthfront.com | 10
  • 11. Find the Heat 7 There are two sides to boosting engagement: lowering the friction of reaching out, and increasing the desire to engage. It’s easy to focus on the first and ignore the second, but social software depends on capturing the real nuances of human interaction. Heat is a placeholder term for emotions that drive action, both positive and negative. Emotion. Passion. Desire. Ask yourself the hard questions of what strong emotions drive the actions in your products. Examples: Apply with LinkedIn wealthfront.com | 11
  • 12. Simple is Hard 8 For some reason, people are talking a lot about Steve Jobs these days. Inevitably this concept comes up. It’s true in design, it’s true in metrics, it’s true in prioritization, and it’s true in strategy. What’s the one thing you want the user to do? What’s the fundamental use case your feature addresses for users? Example: Mobile First design wealthfront.com | 12
  • 13. Einstein’s Razor 8 Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler ! ! ! Simplicity is not an absolute ideal. wealthfront.com | 13
  • 14. Final Thoughts We can be our own harshest critics. In the mirror we see every flaw, every mistake, every imperfection. These are the very early years. Things that seem small now can and will be huge in 5 years. Each of you can and will have a profound impact on that future. Behavior matters. Values matter. Be a Great Product Leader. wealthfront.com | 14
  • 15. Optimus Prime “Thank you, all of you. 
 You honor us with your bravery.” wealthfront.com | 15