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.

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E.

Essential Podcasts for Entrepreneurs & Tech Lovers

Podcasts are a great way to discover new subjects and new people. Whether you are a tech lover or an entrepreneur, bellow you will discover podcasts for entrepreneurs you should – without a doubt – listen to. 

Itnig Podcast with César Migueláñez, Bernat Farrero and Carlos Pierre
Itnig Podcast with César Migueláñez, Bernat Farrero and Carlos Pierre

« Masters of Scale » 

with Reid Hoffman

The host: Reid Hoffman decides to turn to the corporate world instead of pursuing a university carrier. He worked for Apple, Fujitsu for then starting his own business: SocialNet and left it in 2000 to join Confinity. Confinity gives life to Paypal after fusionning. Finally, in 2003, Hoffman co-founds LinkedIn. He is Master of Scale’s host. 

About: The podcast welcomes some of the greatest entrepreneurs. You will discover throughout the talk how they managed to take their companies from 0 to a lot of zeros. You can listen to Masters of Scale’s special guests like Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Selina Tobaccowalla (Evite), Brian Chesky (Airbnb) or Nancy Lublin (Crisis Text Line). Must-hear: one of the top tech podcasts for entrepreneurs.

Listen to the podcast: On their website, Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Youtube

The Team: Reid Hoffman, June Cohen, Deron Triff and Jai Punjabi

« Rocket » 

with Christina Warren, Simone de Rochefort and Brianna Wu

The hosts: Christina Warren started as a Freelance Writer. Then, she worked at Mashable as a Senior Tech Analyst and Tech Correspondent and ended the journey at Microsoft as a Senior Cloud Developer Advocate. About Simone de Rochefort, she is  Senior Video Producer and co-host of The Polygon Show. Brianna Wu founded her first startup at the age of 19, Giant Spacekat. She was Head of Development at the time. She is now running for US Congress. 

About: In this podcast, you will discover three passionate women and their “geek conversation” as they like to call it.  No guest speakers, but you will be able to listen to a panel of tech subjects from Apple to Comics, you will not be disappointed. 

Listen to the podcast: On their website, Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Spotify and Castro

« This week in Startups »

with Jason Calacanis

The host: Jason Calacanis starts as an internet industry journalist in New-York. In 2003, he co-founded Weblogs, Inc and then a few years later he joined Sequoia Capital, launched the web directory Mahalo. He also founded ThisWeekIn.com. Furthermore, he created This Week in Startups podcast and a startup named Inside.com. Finally, he was part of the creation of the Sydney Launch Festival. 

About: Either you are looking to start your own company, or you are a successful entrepreneur, or you just love technology, this podcast will give you a peek to the entrepreneurship world. You will hear stories of all kinds! On his website, you will also find his events and some research on transportation, healthcare and more. This is one is part of the tech podcasts for entrepreneurs not to be missed.

Listen to the podcast: Apple Podcasts, Youtube, SoundCloud and RSS Feed

You can also subscribe to their newsletter in order to receive episodes directly. 

The Team: Jason Calacanis, Jacqui Deegan, and Tony Agapiou

« Recode / Decode » 

with Kara Swisher

The host: Kara Swisher is an American journalist specialized in the technology industry. She first started to work for an alternative newspaper in Washington for then working for the Washington Post. She wrote articles for the Wall Street Journal and New York Times and wrote her own books. Finally, in 2014, she created Recode, a website dedicated to the latest technology news. In 2015, she initiates Recode Decode. 

About: The weekly podcast welcomes tech experts and great entrepreneurs. They review how they got there, what’s on their mind about the current industry and what they would improve or create. Her recent guests were Elon Musk (Tesla CEO), former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mark Zuckerberg. 

Listen to the podcast: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and TuneIn

« K Fund PodKast »

with Jaime Novoa

The host: Jaime Novoa’s background is quite diverse. He is a writer and an investor, but he also worked in data analysis and social media analysis. In 2014, he founded Novobrief, a newsletter for startups. Then, in 2016, he becomes an investor at K Fund and he founds, in 2019, Dealflow, a weekly tech newsletter. 

About: The podcast discusses startups, entrepreneurs and Venture Capital. You will discover enterprises and their story. From data science, unicorns or digital platforms, you sure will find more than one interesting podcast. 

Listen to the podcast: On their website and Soundcloud

« Clockwise »

with Dan Moren and Mikah Sargent

The hosts: Dan Moren is an active author and writer as well as podcaster. He was a Senior Editor at Macworld. Today, he hosts two podcast shows: Clockwise and The Rebound. As for Mikah Sargent, he started as a Website Designer and Developer for then switching as a Senior Editor at Newsy. He now hosts few podcasts such as Clockwise on Replay FM or on TWiT.tv. 

About: The weekly podcast discusses technology and welcomes each time 2 special guests. For 30 minutes, they address 4 topics where all four speakers get to elaborate on the matter, highlight the issues and expose their thoughts. 

Listen to the podcast: On their website, Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Spotify and Castro

« Itnig Podcast»

with Bernat Farrero

The host: Bernat Farrero starts his career as a Developer. In 2009, he founded Itnig, a startup ecosystem that organizes entrepreneurship events. They also have a coworking for startups, a podcast and a fund for early-stage projects. Furthermore, he is a Founder of Factorial, Quipu and Camaloon. He is also a Board Member of Playfullbet, GymForLess and Parkimeter. Finally, he hosts Itnig’s weekly Podcast. 

About: The podcast welcomes every week a new guest. If you wish to learn from successful entrepreneurs, you are on the right platform. The discussions turn around Technology and its industry. You will come across guests like Carlos Pierre (Badi), Vincent Rosso (BlaBlaCar) or Oscar Pierre (Glovo).

Listen to the podcast: Youtube, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Ivoox, and Google Podcasts

You can subscribe to their newsletter if you want to receive the podcast’s link every Monday. 

Whether you are at an early stage of your project, an investor or you are just curious, these podcasts for entrepreneurs give you the opportunity to be updated on tech and business news. Also, you get to learn from successful international entrepreneurs, which can definitely be very useful for your business.