Product Management in Start-ups

I recently commented on a linkedIn discussion regarding the role of Product Management in start-up companies.

The question: Is a software product manager needed in a startup?

My Response:

The founders are the ones with the initial idea. By virtue of having the idea, they can’t help but take on a product management function as they have a natural drive to see their idea bloom and become successful.

So for a start-up to be successful, I believe they need to have a great product person at the top. Not necessarily a seasoned product manager with formal training or experience, but someone that really understands the market, knows exactly how their solution will solve its problems, and how to get it out there. Introducing product management formalities at this stage will most likely obstruct progress.

Once there are real customers to worry about, the product management function starts to become distributed and more formalised. The founders don’t necessarily have the time to sift customer suggestions, prioritise requirements and analyze every competitor. Saying that, most product-driven founders will naturally obsess over their product and continue to drive strategy and momentum.

David has a good point with regards to the ‘back channel’ problem which may make this transition a little risky, but that all comes down to the individual personalities of the founders and their willingness to trust others with their baby. Hiring the right product managers that share the same vision and passion will be key to the transition’s success. Much easier said than done!

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