I’m speaking at the next 106 Miles on February 15th in Menlo Park. The question is “When is the right time for a startup to hire a product manager?”

5 thoughts on “106Miles

  1. This is a tough question because the real answer depends on the skill set in your startup. The bottom-line, for me, is that you need a couple things to drive productization (particularly of technology) in a startup. You need to be able to articulate the problem that you are solving, a clear vision of what your solution to that problem looks like, and a way to manage feedback from testers/users/customers as to how your solution needs to change to meet their needs.

    You might have people in your engineering, sales, and executive staff that can handle those things early on. At some point, you’re going to decide that you need a product manager, particularly to act as a buffer between sales (who is telling you everything the customer even barely mentioned that they might possibly want) and engineering (who is telling you everything that was even barely mentioned in design meetings as being cool to build). Sometimes the engineering manager or the “leader” can do that job.

    Sometimes the “leader” is busy talking to the board, doing a road show for new investors, meeting with potential customers, etc. Sometimes the engineering manager is busy with hiring, writing code, building a test and QA process, hammering out difficult design choices with drastic technical consequences for future versions of the product, etc. Sometimes you need someone else to step in here and take control of the feedback coming in from sales and customers and organize that and present it to engineering.

    As you are preparing for this panel, I would focus on breaking down what you think the important “ingredients” are for a startup to successfully launch a new product. Then any startup can decide if they have all the “ingredients” in the pantry already, or if they need to run out to the store to pick up a few things that they need to finish the recipe.

  2. I saw the title and could only think of: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

    The link is a LITTLE bit different!

  3. I think I’ll ask my business management professor, but I would definitely say that it depends on the complexity of the company.

    Having more types of employees would increase the chance for specialization because each person could focus on his/her main field of expertise, but it also depends on how much control the owner wants to have on each individual function.

    Having a large company means that you need to delegate in order to make things more efficient, but you still should have control over the essential features of your business.

    And, essential does not necessarily mean that they are the core functions.