Product Management to Entrepreneurship
Buckle up, all the questions you had in your mind from Product Management to Entrepreneurship now answered. As you all know that we have an AMA every week on our Slack channel. We are super happy to have hosted Srikrishnan Ganesan as our guest. Srikrishnan comes with more than a decade of experience and has worn multiple hats starting from Business Analyst to Head of Product to a founding couple of companies. Let's get it on!
What was the ONE reason that contributed the most to your decision of becoming an Entrepreneur?
I figured from introspection during my MBA and on my first job that I enjoyed creating things - code or products, etc. and so went into a PM role. later realised it is also about creating a team, creating the culture of a company, etc. The turning point was my stint at a start-up called Jigsee. I was employee #1/2 (2 of us joined on the same day). We were successful in building a great product and had ~6M downloads in 6 months. I felt I was building and running the company and that delusion propelled me to start-up. After that reality hit.
Since you've worn both PM and Founder hats, what were some of the things which youlearnt as a PM that really helped you while starting up?
Frankly, when I turned founder, I also started to code for the product. One day I realised I was being a developer and had stopped being a PM. . Became more conscious about not forgetting what it takes to launch a successful product and not just focus on shipping code.But what helps as an ex-PM in a founder role is:
- rallying a team behind a vision
- working well with your engineers, designers, marketers
- trying to help people arrive at conclusions on their own, the way we are forced to do it as PMs - the same thing works well as a founder too
- winning trust of VCs (kind of)
- being good at clear communication and prioritisation
If I want to start my own venture, will working as a PM add a significant value to it?
yup. I believe it will. I think having at least one ex-PM founder on the team is a big plus in today’s world. we were lucky to have 2 ex PMs, and my co-founder Vignesh is actually a stellar PM - so worked out very well!
According to you what are the top things a person should learn/do to move from Business Analyst role to Product Management role?
Work well with engineers and learn their language, figure out what strengths make your colleagues see value in your role as a BA. Also understanding the tech side really well so that you can have intelligent conversations with product and tech on the feasibility of things, figuring out alternate solutions to make things happen, etc helps people gain confidence in your abilities. I think if you are a great BA, the PM team will see you as their guy/gal in tech and the tech team will see you as their guy/gal close to the product folks.
You have shipped a lot of products in the past. What are the frameworks do you use to consistently ship great products?
I wouldn’t say everything has been a success. But right now our approach is slightly different. We aren’t doing an MVP since it is a product in a slightly crowded space. We are building a big product but getting regular inputs and feedback from potential customers - right from the mock stage. I have a write-up about what our framework is. I haven’t cleaned it up for sharing though. maybe will do it soon and share
What advice do you have for someone new to Product Management like Associate PMs?
For new PMs, if there are a few dimensions that PMs need to be good at, figure out where you stand on each of those and where you want to improve each month. Try to figure out how you are going to build rapport and mutual respect with your engineers. One of the usual challenges with an early PM is everyone in the dev and QA team is going to feel “hey I know more, why can’t I be the PM” - especially when it’s a product-focused company. So you need to work very very hard to learn everything there is to know about the market, product, competitors, etc so everyone knows you are really good at this and they can trust you with your decisions. Of course, be open to their ideas and when they challenge you. But don’t come across as lazy
What are some of the books/podcasts/blogs (online resources) you would recommend, ones that really helped you understand the product role better?
Books and podcasts - honestly not aware anymore of what are the best resources online - not in touch. I used to follow many US VC blogs on PMing back in 2007-2010, and some friends’ blogs back in the day. Maybe write a blog on what you are learning instead of looking for other resources. Also, find amazing mentors to learn from and join companies where you will find great product leaders you can learn from
I have seen many folks shipping multiple small products continuously for very long but still do not build a single big product out of this. Do you recommend shipping products as a good exercise to become a PM/founder?
definitely recommend shipping small products as a stepping stone to landing a APM role or PM role. one hit from the small product may put you on a trajectory to turning it into something bigger
SaaS pricing in India vs Outside, what are your observation in terms of how most companies approach this.
You can give a slightly discounted rate for Indian customers, sure. But usually, global saas companies don’t depend on the Indian market for the bulk of the revenues anyway. If you have great PR in India and are like a default option, then give lower pricing and let it grow. but early-stage focus on the biggest market - US - for global saas.
What according to you would be the ideal method/ advice to a newbie in setting up a product portfolio from scratch.
- Organise it beautifully and take care of UX of how you are presenting your portfolio
- Prioritise what goes in - don’t make it a laundry list.
- Take care that you are communicating well on what’s the problem in each case, why you set out to solve it, what was the impact of it, etc.
- See how you can showcase your problem-solving skills, creativity, ability to get things done, judgment on design, understanding of tech, etc where appropriate.
- Basically, be impressive
How did you go about finding the right problem to solve while starting up the 2nd time?
We started from the market. Then did a lot of work on validation with different levels of people (execs, function heads, and users). Called our own bullshit actively since we’ve done that before. Landed on something we really could latch on to. Maybe this time too it’s a new market, but there is more pull and I think we have a sense for the pull now. And we know it’s a slice of a much bigger existing market.
Make/Break criteria while hiring (skill vs potential) especially early on? Any channel you've found to work well for you?
We hire for skill early on. We aren’t too patient as a team and have seen that we can get going faster with folks who have experience behind them. We look for people with a growth mindset who want to join start-ups for the right reasons. We don’t give them salary hikes (only notional) to ensure they are coming for the right reasons. Referrals are our best bet. angel.co was OK but maybe we didn’t hire anyone from there. Our VCs also helped us with some references and in scouting. Mostly references actually. We put the word out and asked our contacts to help us find our first team.
How do you decide comp/equity between multiple co-founders, especially when one joins later on?
Honestly, it’s been easy for me since the three of us left similar opportunities to come together, and were friends for over a decade when we did our last start-up. It was a clear equal split. It worked well for us and we had a very happy outcome, so we did the same this time. If someone joins later, there are ways to think about where you are already - has enough been built. finally, it’s about knowing how badly you need this co-founder and it’s a personal call. if adding them increases your chance of success, then make sure they get enough that they don’t feel they don’t have enough skin in the game. or give them something, and increase it based on how things are going. haven’t been there but I think I can answer better with a specific scenario.
Market Trumps All Else' was an amazing read. Can you give a sense of how you applied the learnings there for RocketLane?
- could sense there is momentum in this space.
- we did see if there’s enough for a market, a clear decision-maker, etc.
- we have a clear story for why us over others (generic tools)
- we have more fire power to even attempt market creation even given constraints around today. plus it’s our go big or go home venture since we had a success before.
Onboarding for customers happens through a combination of smartsheets + slack/teams/others + crm today. Can you explain the challenges that RocketLane is planning to solve in the onboarding space?
- Create a 5-star experience for your customers in the onboarding journey
- Get a single view of what’s happening across all your onboarding projects, including customer sentiment
- Execute on a repeatable playbook with ease and derive insights on what’s working and what’s not.
- Collaborate in one place instead of a hodgepodge of tools
- Make the tool feel like it is yours so the customer doesn’t feel you are imposing another tool on them.
What are your thoughts upon C2C commerce ecosystem?
What are different ways to reduce the scams and frauds on c2c space from both the ends?
Honestly not been in this space and no immediate thoughts. let’s dm with some context? ill take the easier questions about which I have some thoughts already
While building products and dealing with business teams especially in a B2B space, how do you develop a culture of empathy for right product development along with solving client "requests"?
what worked for us is:
- I am the customer champion
- My co-founder Vignesh protects the product
We fight a lot about what is necessary and what isn’t but Vignesh’s job is to say no to me most times. And we make sure that’s not frowned upon. He could say “intercom doesn’t have this and got to 100M in revenue, why can’t we?” or “tell me 10 other customers who need this” or “why can’t this wait for a solution through the marketplace?“. SO I think getting people to understand that the PM will say NO is important.
Another thing we’ve done is to show the customer these are things we are shipping for you. Do you still think what you want would be higher priority than these items on our list? Do you not want to see these happen earlier? Same thing works with your sales team or support too - show them the roadmap and ask which of these is not important? let them prioritise and stack rank with you!
When do you know that you aren't doing right in the business and you should change paths or close it down
Very hard to know honestly. I think if it has felt like “one more feature” or “if only i could get this piece right” for more than a year, then probably time to re-think. but you can assess if you are in a good or bad market itself - if no one in your space is cracking it then might as well relook at what you are doing.
What's the one thing we should do every day in entrepreneurship
- be your best self every day. flip the switch in your mind to say I’m gonna attack today as a high energy entrepreneur. I’m gonna learn new things. I’m going to out-execute others.
- be ruthless in prioritisation - go for what creates high impact and try to outsource things that are must-do but low impact.
What is/will be your North Star metric at Rocketlane?
Not thought about it yet. From a business perspective, we’d really focus on lead gen targets and numbers initially. From a product perspective, probably the number of active users across our customer org and their customer orgs.