7 Ways Product Managers Can Help a Startup Succeed

Companies depend on product managers to have a clear understanding of the company vision in order to move the product forward.

Recently we asked talked with Mike Lewis, business travel product manager at Airbnb, at Galvanize to discuss all things product management and what they need to be thinking about to help the company succeed. Mike talked about understanding the difference between the mission versus the vision of the company.

“Vision is where you want to be, mission is where you are now. And without a clear vision, it’s difficult to understand where you want to be,” Mike said.

Mike said that product managers need to have knowledge in five primary areas: understanding of the market, company strategy, needs of the company, competitor’s strategy and industry trends.

After working to establish a clear vision for the company we asked Mike what the product manager’s actual role is in helping to help the company move towards success. Mike offered seven suggestions for product managers:

Have a Roadmap

Plan/prioritize the company roadmap monthly, quarterly, and yearly based on the size of your company and needs

Know What Doesn’t Work

Access what’s not happening and clearly articulate what is not going on the product roadmap in the future.

Be Patient

Allow enough time for product to ship by giving double estimates (doubling the amount of time needed for a product release) making sure to leave some time for that one little thing that might have been missed

Set Goals

Develop and build out project requirements and project management. Determine what you would like to achieve by the end of the week, month, quarter, and year


Release and promote by preparing pre-messaging for customers, scheduling and managing release times with internal teams and sales so everyone is on the same page

Track Analytics

Hire a data scientist to measure results, a/b test, and measure adoption. If you’re failing to meet metrics, it’s due to, use case, the implementation is wrong (tends to be this), the demand from the customer wasn’t what they envisioned or your success metric was miscalculated. Take the time to course correct, otherwise, all is for naught.


Listen to customers and collect feedback. This is critical to your success as customers are the lifeblood of your company.

Mike referred to a product manager at a startup as a one man band. Typically their background falls into business, design, or tech, and intersects in the middle of these categories. Product managers tend to be strong in one area and weak in another.

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