Please join us tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM Pacific for the (final in this form — see below) SaaS Product Power Breakfast with Skilljar cofounder and CEO, Sandi Lin, discussing why product managers make great founders and the potential pitfalls they should look out for along the way.
Skilljar, founded in Seattle in 2013, is a fully distributed, ~150-person company that provides a customer education platform to over 400 customers that’s raised $50M+ in venture capital from top investors including Techstars Seattle, Trilogy, Mayfield, Shasta, and Insight Partners.
Sandi is well, a dynamo, with an impressive academic background (two engineering degrees from MIT and a Stanford MBA) matched by equally impressive work experience (~4 years in consulting followed by ~4 years at Amazon in product management followed by co-founding and leading Skilljar). Our prep call was a whirlwind; it should be a great episode.
Among others, we’ll address these five questions with Sandi:
- Why do product managers make great founders?
- How has your product planning process evolved from founder to startup to scaleup stages?
- As CEO with a product background, how do you interact with your product team now? Has it been challenging to pull back?
- You used to work at Amazon. What are key similarities and differences in product management from a large company to a startup?
- What have you found as your blind spots as a former Product Manager?
Thomas and I hope to see you there!
The End of This Format; The Start of a New One
I should note that this will be our last episode in this current form. While we are pleased with the success of the podcast version of the SaaS Product Power Breakfast, the live rooms have several drawbacks we’d like to address:
- The platform. While we started the series on Clubhouse as a deliberate way to participate in the evolution of a new app, I believe the platform has technical limitations for what we’re doing and, moreover, is in general trouble. We’d like to try something else.
- The name. While Thomas is in Germany and I am in Silicon Valley, we nevertheless decided to call the series a “power breakfast.” That instantly posed timezone challenges for the live events (e.g., Thomas has a “power breakfast” over a beer at 5:00 pm) and didn’t translate well into the podcast. Moreover, we have strong international audience that should only grow with the recent announcement that I’m joining Balderton Capital as an EIR. So the name was a fail and that’s on me. We need a new one.
- The timing. I’m not sure how to fix this one, but 8:00 AM Pacific isn’t a great time for a live event. The West Coast is just starting work, the East Coast in their last meetings before lunch, the UK is getting ready for a pint, and continental Europe finishing up before heading home for dinner. With Thomas and I separated by 9 time zones, maybe the best answer is no live event at all. Just a podcast. We’re deliberating.
- The duration. While an hour is a relatively short Clubhouse room, it’s a relatively long podcast. We should take a lesson from Harry Stebbings of The 20 Minute VC and work towards a shorter format. Who knows, maybe it will be The 21 Minute Product Leader. (Think: ours goes up to 11)
To those who’ve attended the live rooms and/or listened to the podcast, we thank you. Thomas and I will be back in several weeks with a new name, a new platform, and a new format.
Please join us for tomorrow’s SaaS Product Power Breakfast where we’ll speak with Dan Faulkner, CTO of Plannuh, about building great product teams. I serve as an advisor to Plannuh and I wrote the foreword for their book, The Next CMO, which Dan co-authored with Plannuh founder and CEO Peter Mahoney.
After getting a master’s in speech and language processing, Dan worked for speech recognition powerhouse Nuance for well over a decade, first as a researcher and later moving product and business unit management.
Our topic will be how to build great product teams. Among other questions, we’ll ask Dan:
- What makes a great product team?
- What is his four-part framework for thinking about product teams (e.g., context, talent, change, and location)?
- Why context matters so much?
- How to deal with the army you have vs. the army you want?
- How to think about change and risk?
- The tradeoffs in location strategy and colocation of PM and ENG?
- How to think about and drive diversity across a number of dimensions?
Hope to see you there!
We’re back this week with SaaS Product Power Breakfast and tomorrow’s guest is Andy MacMillan, CEO of UserTesting, and our topic is a framework for hiring product teams.
Andy started his career building web applications at EDS (so he presumably has lots of old white shirts somewhere in his closet), was VP of product marketing at content management vendor Stellent, was acquired into Oracle where he spent nearly 5 years in product management before serving as COO of Products at Salesforce (where we crossed trails), then CEO of marketing automation system Act-On, and now CEO at UserTesting, a human insight platform that helps companies get feedback on user experiences — so he’s definitely at the right place at the right time as the whole world starts to value design, user experience, and product-led growth strategies.
Net: Andy’s got a great background, some real product chops, and can simultaneously give us both the Product and the CEO perspective on product issues. Our topic is Andy’s framework for hiring product managers and product management teams. My five key questions for this episode will be:
- Why do I need a framework for hiring PM teams?
- What is your framework for hiring PM teams?
- What goes wrong in hiring PM teams?
- What do you think of the PM as GM or mini-CEO concept?
- When should an early-stage company start using such a hiring framework?
Thomas Otter, my co-host, and I look forward to seeing you at our chat with Andy tomorrow at 8am Pacific time. The session will be recorded and released subsequently as an episode of the SaaS Product Power Breakfast Podcast. See you there!
This week’s episode of the SaaS Product Power Breakfast is Thursday, June 10th, at 8am Pacific and we welcome a special friend and unique guest, Chris McLaughlin, currently CMO at France-based powerhouse LumApps, a collaboration and communications platform backed by top European investors including Idinvest and Goldman Sachs.
I got to know Chris by working together in his prior gig as joint CMO and CPO at Nuxeo, a France-based content services platform that had a great exit earlier this year to Thoma Bravo / Hyland Software, and where I sat on the board of directors for the past 4 years.
Chris has a unique background because of its dualities, working:
- As a senior executive for both US-based and European-based companies.
- At both growth startups and large megavendors (e.g., EMC/Documentum, IBM/FileNet)
- In leadership roles on both the Product and the Marketing side.
In this week’s episode we — and the audience — will ask Chris many questions, including:
- How to get product and marketing working together, especially when they aren’t under a common boss.
- How European startups should organize their go-to-market functions to enter and grow in the US market
- The role of both the product and marketing leaders in startups with either a technical founder or business founder
- When is the right time to hire your first CPO and/or CMO
- How to align product, marketing, and sales around a strategy — and dealing with the normal challenges in focusing that strategy
See you there, Thursday 6/10 at 8 am Pacific — and bring a friend.
As always, the room will be recorded and posted. We think of the show as a podcast recorded in front of a live, studio audience.
Last week’s episode of the SaaS Product Power Breakfast was, to paraphrase Jerry Garcia, “crackling with energy” as we interviewed Stephanie McReynolds on category creation.
In this week’s episode, Thomas is out (I guess he’s getting another degree as a result of his latest mid-life crisis), so I’ll be flying the room solo. Moreover, I haven’t lined up a guest (see How’s Work Going for an indication on why), so I’ll be doing an Ask Me Anything Session on strategy, product marketing, and product management.
I’ll open the room with a few opening comments on:
- What I think makes for greatness in product management
- What most often interferes with that
- What to do about it — i.e., how to execute a strategic job strategically
And then we’ll cut to an open mike Q&A / AMA. Please don’t leave me alone — and please do bring some questions! We’ve not yet run the room in this format — and a big part of this project is to experiment with and understand Clubhouse as a new medium — so I’m excited to give it a try. Please join in and learn with us (or, in this case, me).
Fear not, by the way, in response to some outreach I have been doing, I have some great candidate guests in the pipeline, including:
- Andy MacMillan, CEO of UserTesting
- Evan Kaplan, CEO of InfluxDB
- Nick Mehta, CEO of GainSight
- Heidi Vasconi, noted Analyst Relations consultant
- Chris McGlaughlin, CMO and CPO of Nuxeo
Several folks have requested Lelya Seka (don’t let it go to your head), but last I checked with her that might have to wait until (and if) we ever move to Spaces.
I know Thomas has a great pipeline as well. So, tell a friend, block your calendar Thursday mornings at 8:00 am (pacific) and join in the fun!
See you Thursday for the AMA session with me on product.