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Why Product Managers Wear Sneakers

I gave a talk last night to the Silicon Valley Product Management Association. The title of the talk, and this post, refers to the amount of running around outside the building (with the founder) product managers will need to do in a startup. Here is the gist of that talk.

Wile E. Coyote

I gave a talk last night to the Silicon Valley Product Management Association. It’s a San Francisco Bay Area forum for networking, jobs and education for over 500 Product Management professionals. This is one of the Silicon Valley organizations that remind you why this is a company-town whose main industry is entrepreneurship, (and a great example of an industry cluster.)

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The published title of the talk was, “How to Create a $100M Business and Out Innovate your Competition.” I read that and thought, “If I knew how to do that I would have been a VC.” So instead I gave a talk I called, “Why Product Managers Need Sneakers.”

The gist of the talk was to observe that:

  1. startups are not smaller versions of large companies
  2. startups search for a business model, large companies execute an existing one
  3. the skills that talented product managers bring to a large company are at best not transferable to a startup (and at worst destructive)
  4. product managers in a startup can either be an asset or an albatross.
  5. They’re an albatross if they perform as they do in a large company, and believe that they “own” customer interaction, feedback to engineering and authoring market requirements documents.
  6. They’re an asset to a startup if they understand that their job is to get the founder outside the building and in front of customers.
  7. They can be the scorekeepers in Customer Discovery and Validation as the company iterates and pivots the business model and refines the minimum feature set.

“Why Product Managers Wear Sneakers” was a reference to the amount of running around outside the building (with the founder) product managers will need to do in a startup. Except they won’t be called Product Managers. In a startup they will be part of the Customer Development team.

If you’ve seen my talks before you can skip forward to slide 19.

Reprinted from SteveBlank.com

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Steve Blank is a prolific educator, thought leader and writer on Customer Development for Startups, the retired serial entrepreneur teaches, refines, writes and blogs on “Customer Development,” a rigorous methodology he developed to bring the “scientific method” to the typically chaotic, seemingly disorganized startup process. Now teaching Entrepreneurship at three major Universities, Blank is the author of Four Steps to the Epiphany. Follow him on Twitter @sgblank.

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About the author

When it comes to helping startups succeed, Steve Blank is where entrepreneurs often start up. A prolific educator, thought leader and writer on Customer Development for Startups, the retired serial entrepreneur teaches, refines, writes and blogs on “Customer Development,” a rigorous methodology he developed to bring the “scientific method” to the typically chaotic, seemingly disorganized startup process.

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