Your startup finally has the financial resources to expand the team. That’s both awesome, and dangerous. So here is one more filter for you to think about as you evaluate each candidate:
Is your company “pre” product-market fit*, or “post”? (I’m not talking about your pitch to VCs but your own honest assessment)
And has this candidate spent most of his time pre or post?
This transcends role – it is as true for a product person as a sales rep (see Suster). There are those who are comfortable with aggressively figuring out the plan as they go and can help you solve the puzzle, and those who want to take a confirmed plan and execute the hell out of it.
Remember two more things if you are in that “pre” stage: the pre-product-market fit person will have more failures on their resume — that comes with the territory — but you will need to dig into what they learned and how they approach to solving the PM-fit puzzle; and don’t get seduced by brand names on a resume unless the person was part of the team before the company became a hit.
What is product-market fit? This term came came from a 2007 Marc Andreessen blog post:
The only thing that matters is getting to product/market fit.
Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.
You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of “blah”, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close.
And you can always feel product/market fit when it’s happening. The customers are buying the product just as fast as you can make it — or usage is growing just as fast as you can add more servers. Money from customers is piling up in your company checking account. You’re hiring sales and customer support staff as fast as you can. Reporters are calling because they’ve heard about your hot new thing and they want to talk to you about it. You start getting entrepreneur of the year awards from Harvard Business School. Investment bankers are staking out your house. You could eat free for a year at Buck’s.