Product Q&A: That first VP of Product hire

Giff Constable product management

First Round Capital has a wonderful online network, basically a white-labelled quora, for people at their portfolio companies. While I was with their portfolio company Axial, I answered a number of questions. I’m sharing some of the Q’s I have answered over the last year or two:

What do you look for in your first VP of Product or Head of Product hire?

If you are the CEO, the first thing is to look within:

  • Are you ready to let go of product?
  • Are you looking for / ready for a thought partner, or do you want someone to primarily make the trains run on time?
  • Do you already have strong beliefs on how one prioritizes and ships product?
  • Do you already have strong beliefs about the importance of intuition vs market data/learning?

Then you need to look at the org:

  • How much alignment versus controversy is there in terms of mission and priority?
  • Are you still hunting for product-market fit, or are you now optimizing and extending?
  • What is the scalability of the engineering or design leaders? (i.e. do you need a product leader who also needs to take on engineering and/or design for at least the near term)
  • What are the values of the engineering organization?

Your answers to the above are necessary inputs into the personality, values, creativity, experience, and seniority of person you recruit.

The above stuff is where things can get messy if you get the fit wrong.

It’s usually a given, IMO, that you also want someone who can:

  • inspire and recruit great people
  • closely align product management, design and engineering
  • highly comfortable with data and business models
  • become an expert in your domain (either through current knowledge or a proven track record in being a quick-yet-deep study)
  • communicate and build bridges effectively up, down, across and out
  • ship
  • get results

(other thoughts on good vs bad prod mgt)