Developer, Designer, Driver

The ideal founding team for a technology startup in 2014 is one designer, one developer, and one driver (product manager).

Most people in Silicon Valley put a marketer in that third role, but I would argue that marketing should not be a key focus prior to product/market fit. A much more valuable role is a customer-centric product manager who sets the vision and product roadmap, and then drives the team towards the finish line.

The secondary role of this product manager is to serve as a barrier between the product development team and all unproductive distractions. Is the team worried about bouncing rent checks? Then the job of the product manager is to find initial funding. If the biggest problem is finding talented employees, the product manager becomes the HR director. And when customer feedback is needed, it’s the product manager’s job to recruit your early adopters.

If you have identified a real problem and have the right product builders, then finding the first 10,000 people to try your product should be the least of your concerns. Add this early “growth hacking” onto the product manager’s job description.

I often advocate hiring and partnering with people who fit the “jack of all trades, master of one” mold. The perfect product manager is obsessed with the customer experience and does whatever it takes to drive the product towards a solution that solves a key problem for your users.

  • Brad Rach

    I would agree Neil. A product manager needs to be marketing minded, but a marketer does not equate a good product manager. A good product manager fits the roles of marketing manager, product manager, and business analyst.