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Sep 04, 2022

Product managers don't make good startup founders

Enzo Avigo

Product managers don't make good startup founders.

I know this first hand because I was in product for 6 years.

PMs have great skills to start a tech company. Yet they have to unlearn almost all their habits to become great founders.

Sure they can craft a strategy doc, drive user research, or build a #roadmap. But PMs are specialized while by definition a founder is the most generalist person in the organization.

But good new: PMs can become great founders.
They learn really fast!

If you’re a PM who wants to start your #startup, here are the 5 most critical things you'll have to learn to be successful:

❤️ 1. Love more than product
🌍 2. Aim for company-wide impact
🧘 3. Let it go
🎯 4. Be straight to the point
🦮 5. Guide discovery with your vision

❤️ 1. Love more than product

I’ve seen some PMs only passionate about product topics. They don't make great founders.

Founders need to get passionate about all kinds of disciplines: marketing, success, sales, legal,... All of them, but one at a time.

🌍 2. Have company-wide impact

PMs have a very important impact, but it's local (the product).

Founders must have impact at the company-wide scale. They need to do 10 things at a time. If you're perfectionist you'll fail.  

A fun example: PMs benchmark competitors and similar industries. Founders benchmark any company in the world.

🧘 3. Let it go

PMs own the same things over time, like a roadmap. Their job is consistent. It's about solving customers problems with product features.

You'd think founders are control freak, they're not. Founders own everything until they own nothing. Their job is to master a task, then delegate it to someone better.

Great PMs care about details. They’re in the trenches with designers and engineers. They iterate on features until they solves users' problems.

Founders can't afford that. They give high level feedback on the roadmap based on a vision.

PMs get respected for their expertise. Founders get respected for their high level understanding of everything.

🎯 4. Be straight to the point

A PM is the voice of the customers. His role is to influence and progress decisions. In a way they need consensus.

Founders don't have time for politics. They must com with strong opinions which: 1/ increase velocity 2/ raise the bar, and 3/ narrow the team focus.

🦮 5. Guide the discovery

PMs' input start at the discovery phase.

Founders focus on what’s before the discovery. Wether this is a clear mission, vision or strategy, founders set the guardrails.



What makes a great #founder is the capacity to learn fast.

If you're PM then there is good chances you can become a great founder. But please don't think this is granted.

The worst part? You shouldn't learn founders skills now.
Founders also make terrible PMs 😉

So, are you willing to unlearn your job to become a founder? 😃

Please let me know what I missed in the comments!

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