The attendance Friday morning was small, but extremely engaged, and I thoroughly enjoyed delivering “Product Management for Startups.” Below are the main talking points from the 1 hour presentation.

  • Product managers sit at the intersection of technology, user experience (UX), and the business model of the startup. More and more, the Product Manager is either a former software developer or is at least familiar with software code and the architecture of the software delivery model.

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  • The Product Manager is not a “project manager.” Too often, the two positions are intertwined and mistaken for one another. A project manager manages individual, short term projects that have a definitive start and a definitive end, whereas a Product Manager owns the product throughout its lifetime.
  • The Product Manager is the CEO of the product, from cost to build through End Of Life, and everything in between.
  • I quoted David Cummings, in which he said in a blog post in late 2014, “software engineers and sales reps are two of the hardest positions to fill as the company scales…there’s an even harder position to fill and that’s the role of the product manager.” That opinion is backed up by recent data from Glassdoor.com, which shows that the average annual salary of a Product Manager ($111,650) is 23% higher than the average annual salary of a Software Engineer ($90,374). Good Product Managers are in demand.

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  • At a high level, the Product Manager’s job is to:
    • Define the market
    • Identify the users
    • Define MVP
    • Create the roadmap
    • Scale the product to new audiences and into new complementary products
    • Develop metrics to measure success
  • The Lean Startup Methodology has put much more emphasis on the role of the product manager, since a lean startup starts with the product that is a solution to a validated market problem.
  • A lean startup product starts with an MVP, which is market tested until the solution and the customer is validated. At that point, version 1 of the product is produced, and the startup spins its wheels until product market fit is achieved. Product market fit occurs when functionality, delivery, usability, support, pricing, etc.. are all repeatable.
  • I again quote David Cummings, though I’m sure he’s not the first to say this: “The (software) product is never done.
  • Dave McClure, in this great video from 500Startups, “Don’t just build shitloads of features! That’s wrong! Spend 80% of your [resources] tweaking your most valuable features and 20% building new features.”
  • The most important job of any Product Manager is to communicate early, often, and clearly to all product stakeholders, including the customer, dev team, management, support, QA, and sales & marketing.

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  • The Product Manager must thoroughly understand the business model of the startup, because the customer sees “the product” as software, delivery, distribution, support, maintenance, training, onboarding, analytics, and upgrades, all of which fall under the purview of the Product Manager.
  • The Product Manager, especially in a young tech startup, is often one of the founders, and is always the first to face the customer with the product. Who else would do that job?
  • The customer facing responsibilities of the Product Manager include:
    • Internal Product Positioning – Create internal positioning that will be used to develop external messages focused on each key buyer or persona.
    • External Product Positioning – describe the product by its ability to solve market problems.
    • Pricing Model – Do the math to create a value, then look at the market, the cost of production and sales, and come up with a pricing model.
    • Buyer Persona – Who makes the purchase decision?
    • User Persona – Who uses the product?

I’ve held several Product Manager roles over the years, the most fun of which was as a founder, creating and molding a product out of nothing and slowly iterating the offering to meet industry demand. There’s no greater satisfaction or a Product Manager than to be able to predict the entire lifecycle of a new product.

What do you think about that?