How to Hire Product Managers for Startups

Mark Suster (who has founded and built two successful software startups)  recently blogged about hiring at a startup. It’s an excellent post and got me thinking about hiring product managers at a startup.

From my experience of having built Product Management teams at two different successful startups, and having been an early member of the PM team at a third successful startup – I believe all of Mark’s points apply well to hiring product managers at a startup too.

Read on for my comments on how some of Mark’s points apply to hiring product managers at startups…

3 Tips for Hiring Product Managers at Startups

Mark makes 7 excellent points in his post – here are 3 of them, along with my comments on how they apply to hiring PMs at startups:

  • Only hire “A” players:
    • At a startup, the product manager will very likely impact the work done by all of the engineers and sales reps.
    • So it’s even more important (than other individual contributor hires) that the PM hired is an “A” player.
  • Don’t worry about exact “roles”:
    • Even if you hire someone with the title of “Product Manager”, he/she must be willing and able to play multiple roles at the startup. For example: PM, UI designer, QA tester, Technical writer, etc.
    • PMs who are specialists and do only one thing are not as valuable at startups as they are at mid-to-large companies.
  • Attitude over Aptitude:
    • At a startup, a PM’s attitude is as important as (often more important than) his/her Aptitude.
    • As HP Jin, Founder/CEO at TeleNav used to tell us “At a startup, you are set up to fail. You must be able to succeed in spite of it”. This requires the right attitude – especially for a product manager, who has no “formal authority” yet is expected to make a major impact across the company.

For the full list of 7 points, including details and valuable tips, be sure to check out Mark Suster’s post

Editor’s Note:
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Michael Shrivathsan

I'm your author, Michael Shrivathsan, an expert in product management with successful experience at several innovative companies in Silicon Valley, USA over the past two decades. I'm also a USPTO patent recipient. For my day job, I'm the VP of Product Management at Accompa, we make the popular requirements management software used by Product Management, Business Analysis, and related teams.

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