I’ve been a PM for the last year in Xpass, a startup I founded. I started noticing how much the PM’s role and activities can change, depending on the stage of the company. I wanted to highlight some of these, and hopefully start a discussion on how this role can change.
The high-level goal
While in a larger startup you’re hoping to either Grow or Scale, in an earlier stage, you are looking for PMF (Product Market Fit). But what does this mean in practice?
When looking at an early stage PM, you should:
- Deeply understand the problems your customer segment has, if not, talk to them until you do.
- After you understand the customer’s pains, start building a product which addresses their issue with the least amount of code/effort possible. i.e. MVP. I feel a lot of founders forget just how much value they can provide with manual work, it won’t scale, but it will prove important points.
- If your MVP is successful, turn that a little bit more into a product
In other words, understand the customer pains and provide value, validate by having a transaction (normally financial) and then see if that user base is big enough for a company.
While a later stage PM should:
- Talk to their existing customers and understand where you are currently failing with your current solution.
- Are there any customer pains you are currently not solving that you could be?
- Interact with your internal team and look at all operational metrics, could you be doing more with less? Where do your resources go?
- Some higher-level stuff that is very company-specific.
Could you be providing more value with the current solution? Are there other opportunities on the table you did not see?
Getting any content for a PM is very hard, even though the profession has become one of the most requested in the world, the content still lacks a lot. To be honest, I’ve tried a couple of product universities and haven’t found anything that helps too much in general aspect. Of course, there are specific courses that help in other ways, like Reforge and similar.
A useful tip I did get from a friend was:
- Do you want to work for early-stage startups? Work at one or found one and learn on the job, that’s the best way to do it. If you can’t work for one because you don’t have the experience, start from a different role and progress.
- Want to be a PM for a large company, do an MBA or similar. But also make sure to work for one.
These are just some basic thoughts on the beginning of this journey, I’ll keep updating with my various learnings.