Secrets of a Startup Product Manager

What It Takes To Become a PM of a Startup

Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

“The best product managers I know are charismatic leaders who can make hard decisions with conviction while rallying others to join them.”

Product management isn’t for everyone. If you like being at ground zero of a company’s problems and getting your hands dirty solving them (without much guidance), you might want to read on. If you prefer more structure and don’t love ambiguity, this isn’t the role for you.

What is a startup product manager?

A startup product manager’s job is similar to a VP of Product in a larger company. However, in a smaller company, there is no formalized VP role, so the product manager takes on that responsibility as well as many others.

How does being a product manager help drive business success?

The product management role has many different responsibilities depending on where you work but generally includes:

  • Working with your sales team to understand customer needs
  • Working with your marketing team to develop a relevant and differentiated story about what you’re building
  • Working with design to bring the product and messaging to life through design and messaging resources (copywriting, graphic design, illustration, photography)
  • Being the user voice when making decisions about features that will be released or not released

Skills required to be a startup product manager

The skills needed for a great PM are a unique combination of empathy, creativity, analytical thinking, and technical knowledge. You need empathy because you’ll be working with your customers one-on-one or in small groups every day.

  • Make a list of your top three priorities for the week or month and communicate those priorities with your team regularly (and update them as priorities change).
  • Make sure that you’re taking time every day (or at least every week) to plan out your next few weeks so you have a clear vision of where you want your time investment to go.
  • Keep a list of your top priorities in your head or on a whiteboard somewhere and check in with it throughout the day. I’ve found that keeping a to-do list of just two items helps me focus my attention more effectively.

What kind of environments are great for product managers?

A PM that thrives in a startup environment doesn’t need to be an extrovert, but they do need to be able to influence others.

Founder of Cudy Technologies (, a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students teach and learn better. I am also a mentor and investor.

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