10 tips for startup product managers from early stage investors

In a recent meetup hosted by ProductTank TLV, a panel of investors and entrepreneurs answered questions about the role of a product manager in early stage startups.The panel raised some important issues during the meetup, so if you couldn’t make it I’m happy to share the top 10 tips they discussed during the session.  These tips are relevant for both product managers, as well as early stage startup founders who are contributing to the product.

The panel participants were:

Gil Ben Artzy – Co-founder at UpWest labs, a seed stage Silicon Valley fund.  UpWest Labs invests in 10-12 companies a year, and helps those companies move their headquarters from Israel to the United States.

Yaniv golan – General Partner at Lool, an early stage, value-add internet and media fund.

Dan Sarel –  Co-founder & VP of Product at Demisto, a Cyber security company that recently raised 6 million dollars.

Moriya Kassis – Product Management Consultant and Venture Associate with UpWest Labs.

 

  1. One of the founders should be the Product Owner – preferably not the CEO. Over time a dedicated PM should be assigned in order to design and constantly iterate the product offering.

  2. In the early days of a company, the decision making and roadmapping process might be more important than reaching product-market fit.  This is because of a product’s inherent ability to change as customers give feedback.  You can’t get product market fit before launching a digital product.

  3. For B2C Startups in seed phase, investors expect to see a working product, or at least a POC.  There’s less of an emphasis on actual product-market fit.

  4. It is essential to know exactly what problem or need your team is working on, in order to fix it as quickly as possible.

  5. Characteristics of a good team:

    • Balance between self-confidence and knowledge with the willingness to learn from others and accept feedback.

    • Team-Problem Fit -> If people from a security company want to build a photo sharing app, this might not work. Each and every team should stick to their strengths and maximise them.

    • The size of a team’s dream should match that of what a VC wants to achieve.  If your success criteria is capturing a small market and making a modest living and a VC is expecting world domination, you should re-evaluate who you’re looking to raise funds with.

    • Data Driven – VCs look for a balance between the optimisation and creativity to make breakthroughs.

    • RED FLAG: When a CEO or VP Marketing say “Yes I am in charge of the product” and you can easily see that they do not own the product or have product management methodologies.  The discipline of product management has evolved over the past few years, and the CEO may not be aware or knowledgeable of these helpful and impactful tools.  

  6. How to find Product-Market fit

    • The product market fit process should be done in the market where you want to launch the product.

    • Create an MVP as fast as possible.

    • Think about your MVPt ,cut it in half, cut it in another half and go to the clients.

    • You should feel ashamed of your MVP.  Don’t wait until it’s perfect!  (because perfect never comes)

    • Don’t spend that much time doubting if you should release it, if it’s finished, then it’s ready. Put it out there and wait for feedback to help you out.

  7. Raising money after your customers were willing to pay for your product is significantly easier and for some domains this is the only way to prove traction to investors.

  8. When pitching to VCs, make sure to include the “product” slides : competition analysis, the product messaging, the market size, quotes from customers.

  9. If your company also happens to offer a service, make sure to have it clear from the beginning of you are going to focus on the service or the product, as they are two very different things.

  10. Hire a PM as soon as possible, get the R&D used to working with a PM. The more you wait, the harder it gets to adjust.  The PM’s location should depend on the type of the company: tech product close to R&D. Saas, E-commerce -> the PM should be closer to the market.

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