What Brad Feld and Mark Suster think about Product Managers

I was watching This week in Venture Capital #18 with Brad Feld hosted by Mark Suster and was pleasantly surprised to hear “Product Manager” pop up as a topic. At minute 47 of the interview, Mark asks about the “lack of experienced Product Managers”.

Brad says “One of the hardest roles to fill in a startup is that of an experienced Product Manager.” He goes on to say that one can be trained to be a good Product Manager but that person needs to have a certain personality type. Brad cites a quote from Mark Pincus “Be CEO of your job” and goes on to say “If you are a Product Manager for a specific thing, you have to deal with it just like a CEO has to deal with the whole company.”

Some personality traits that do not help the Product Manager are:

  • too process driven
  • not a good mixture of leadership and management
  • not willing to be uncomfortable creatively with it then button down to drive to the goal line

The conversation wraps up with comments on the changing approach to Product Management as the role has become very formalized in big companies. Brad and Mark talk about the older Product Manager/Project Manager setup at Microsoft and the how today’s “Google style” Product Manager is a very different personality type in a very different role. Mark argues this type of personality (product, engineering driven) is not focused enough on the economics of the business and then Brad counters by saying that he would take a call from any Product Manager for a product at Google in a heartbeat. Brad concludes the conversation by reiterating the notion of owning the whole function and knowing how to allocate resources is a powerful skillset and a “very hard role to find”.

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