As product focus is more important than ever in building startups in a very competitive market, the product manager role is increasingly getting more common and is highly valued.

But to many it’s a job description that’s a bit vague, and often means different things from company to company.

We invited three product people from the startup ecosystem in Barcelona to discuss the topic: Former PM at Google and currently product consultant Itamar Gilad, CEO and co-founder of Factorial Jordi Romero, and CEO and co-founder of Quipu Roger Dobaño.

Long time product expert Gilad says it’s hard to explain the PM role in one sentence:

The position has changed so much over time, and it’s still changing. I like to define the PM as the person who’s the expert on the users, the customers, the market and the competition, and manages to deliver this context to the product team in a good way — it’s a super man basically!

From product to customer first

From the left: Sindre Hopland, media manager at itnig, Jordi Romero, CEO and co- founder of Factorial.

The last 10–20 years, tech companies have shifted their focus from trusting their engineers more than market, to lifting the customer and the users as the number one priority in making the product, says Gilad that for the last six years has managed products such as Gmail and Youtube:

The first time I heard the term product manager was back in the 90’s, and back then it was very new. The thought was that engineers always knew best, but that has changed a lot.

Also Romero, CEO of Factorial, recognizes the attitude from earlier times when he worked in other SaaS companies in the US and in Barcelona:

I remember we first defined ourselves as a product-first company, then a sales-driven startup and later a customer focused company. It think these terms are hard for startups that alter and change the way they do business often.

Dobaño is both CEO and head of product at accounting SaaS Quipu, he defined the product role like this:

You’re the CEO of the product, but it’s not just about making a great product, it’s about continuously solving problems for the customers and making an impact in your customers life.

All the responsibility, but no authority

The product manager is found somewhere between tech, business and the UX/UI team of the startup. © 2011 Martin Eriksson.

Even though the PM has the word manager in the title, all three guests agrees that the only thing the PM actually manage is the product itself.

Romero points to several challenges connected with this kind of responsibility:

An issue I’ve seen in many product teams, is that the PM is managing the team itself, and not only the product and process. I think this is a real problem that is hindering the communication in the organization.

Itamar explains that the PM is there to fill all the holes of work that aren’t being worked on, which means that the person needs to be diverse:

The PM is working closely with both customer service, the business side, designers and engineering, it’s more about creating a pattern for collaborations and a good flow of progress. It’s needless to say that soft skills are in high demand.

He continues to say that a startup needs a designated PM when the startup is at a scale where the business people and the engineering team start arguing what to build next, and you don’t have time as a CEO to deal with all the discussions.

How to become one

From the left: Itamar Gilad and Roger Dobaño.

Romero says he believes a lot in promoting PM’s within the company that share the original values and vision of the founders.

Itamar explains that it’s not necessary to know how to code, but many big companies require it:

In companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google they alway prefer someone with a coding background. However, the personal also needs to be interested in the business side of the startup and have strong soft skills for team management.

Dobaño thinks many companies are setting too high requirements for their PM’s:

What you’re describing here is a unicorn. I do agree that PM’s should have a computer science background, but my job is to empower one person within each product team, and I’ll then make sure the communication flow is good between the company.

Romero repeats how vital soft skills are to this profession:

To have all the technical skills is one thing, but to be able to both do a sales pitch and to convince the developer team that what they’re building is the right thing to focus on, that’s tricky.


This post was written by Sindre Hopland, media manager at itnig and produced together with Masumi Mutsuda.

https://upscri.be/285782-2

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W.

WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER A COWORKING SPACE FOR YOUR STARTUP

Your home office or a coffee shop won’t be enough!

Yes, we all know the tale about the guy who starts a small company in their garage or basement, has a brilliant idea and becomes the next Steve Jobs. It’s true, most successes have very humble beginnings. It’s also true that not all garage or basements are going to magically get you a successful business. They might work in the very (veeeery) early stages of your startup, but you can’t always meet a client at coffee shops, not to say your basement. 

A great, if not the best, solution is to find a coworking space. Coworking spaces have become very popular all over the world, either for freelancers or entrepreneurs and startups. 

Coworking spaces are not just big rooms with desks and chairs with high-speed wifi. The areas are made to be exciting places to work and improve your productivity.

As a startup, you need to find resources fast and affordably. More importantly, you’ll need motivation. This is why you should consider a coworking space. 

Here are some basic but amazing benefits from coworking spaces:

Community

Joining a coworking means joining a community.  Being surrounded by other entrepreneurs, freelancers and talented independent people is without doubt a one of the best features of a coworking.

Motivation is key when starting a new project and trying to develop your own business. The road will get though and you’ll appreciate other entrepreneurs’ vision and support! Other workers’ feedback can be very useful to improve your service/product before trying to sell it to the world. 

Networking, networking and…networking!

As a startup, you’ll be looking for networking opportunities. Most coworkings host professionals from different kind of industries, which can open up many doors for you and your business. Not all coworking spaces are about networking, some of them prefer to have a quiet individual work environment, so as a startup you have to make sure to choose a coworking with networking opportunities.

At Itnig, for example, we love to share ideas and support other entrepreneurs. Don’t be shy, some of the other coworking tenants can bring great business opportunities, or even become new clients (and friends)! 

Budgetfriendly

As entrepreneurs (or people for that matter) it’s very important to understand the importance of money, more specifically: budget. Tight budgets call for smart spending. Coworkings are usually budget friendly, most of them offer different membership options depending on your startup’s needs and budget.

Amenities 

A coworking provides you with everything needed to be as productive as possible. High speed internet connection, printers, conference rooms and COFFEE. Some coworkings even plan afterwork activities and events to make it all more fun! As a startup, a coworking space is your best chance at having all the basic amenities but also the fun ones, like a ping pong table or a nice chill out terrace. 

Happy clients

As you grow and have more clients, it can get messy if you keep meeting them in coffee shops. Coworking spaces offer office services such as conference rooms. That way your meetings will be more professional and comfortable for everyone. 

Barcelona is a city full of coworkings of every kind! Our Itnig community keeps growing, we now have up to 20 startups such as Andjoy, Classlife, Factorial and Freeverse, all under the same roof. We have afterwork activities and we also plan different kinds of events open to anyone interested in marketing, tech stuff, entrepreneurship and design. Our space is about 2.100m2 with up to 800m2 of conference rooms, events space, ping pong and fun activities. 

There’s also  wifi, endless coffee and talented people. Join us!