Product-Market Fit is an Illusion

Giff Constable lean, startups

Lately, I’ve found myself questioning the concept of product-market fit. Not long after Marc Andreessen coined the term, entrepreneurs (and intrapreneurs) starting asking themselves, “do I have it yet?” and often rushing to answer “yes,” with all sorts of bad consequences. I did a tweetstorm/post about the mistakes that come with getting it wrong, but the topic is still bouncing …

Product Q&A: Additional questions

Giff Constable product management, startups

First Round Capital has a wonderful online network, basically a white-labelled quora, for people at their portfolio companies. I answer questions now and then. Here are some of the Q’s I have answered over the last year or two: What are best practices for including and leveraging the design team in your product development process? I boil it down to …

How To Thrive, Not Just Survive, Without a Startup VP of Engineering

Giff Constable startups

Startup CEOs face a very tricky transition period when their software engineering teams are between 10 and 30 people. If you are lucky, your early technical lead can make the transition to managing a growing team and communicating effectively with execs and board members, but that doesn’t always align with people’s interests or capabilities. In this situation, the mistake that …

How we externalize product progress to the company, and defuse politics along the way

Giff Constable product management, startups

It’s depressing how many companies accuse their product and engineering teams of being a black box. The accusations aren’t always fair, but they usually stem from two root problems: 1. not enough collaboration, and 2. not enough externalization. Here’s how we are tackling those two things at our company. Collaboration: We run a bi-weeky “qualitative research” meeting where anyone in …

Rebuilding Trust in a Product Organization

Giff Constable management, product management, startups

When I first joined Axial, the product and engineering side of things was pretty broken, and there was a serious absence of trust. The team didn’t trust leadership, and leadership didn’t trust the team. The rest of the business — actually, even worse, customers — didn’t trust product/engineering. The culprits may sound familiar to some of you: Features took months to ship, if they …

VCs get all the headlines, but there are more financing options out there than you think

Giff Constable finance, startups

Last week I had breakfast with a founder-CEO who had been through the wringer. After spending years building a successful services business, she got squeezed out and screwed by an unscrupulous business partner. Not one to stay down, she picked herself up and started a new firm, only to be diagnosed with cancer. But she kept on fighting. She beat …

Three Little Words for Better Team Communication

Giff Constable Jotto, product management, startups

For the last several years, I’ve been very focused on how to get the most out of product and entrepreneurial teams. Three little words keep on coming back to me. They bite you when you forget them, and pay dividends when you pay them respect. Write it down. Doesn’t seem like much does it? Jeff Patton’s timeless cartoon explains why: …

Waiting for Perfection

Giff Constable product management, startups

When you spend enough time in pre-product-market-fit startups, you pick up certain rules. Some don’t stand up to new context or wisdom, but here are two related rules that have survived intact for me: 90% right is good enough Solve the problems coming up, but not the problems down the road You can usually get to 80–90% confidence (or 80–90% …

A Product Manager Checklist

Giff Constable design, product management, startups

We’re always thinking about “minimum viable process” — i.e. what’s the least process that gets the job done. The answer to that changes as your team size scales, but I think it’s always worthwhile to fight a running battle for no more prescriptive process than you need. This impacts everything from how you treat agile, how you approach research, how you interleave …