I have a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and a job in the startup scene. This post is an introduction to the overlap between the two. You can expect more about this in the future.
As a new product manager trying to develop my own style at a tech startup, I’ve noticed that the approach used by other product people is pretty specific: Find a problem or a point of friction in our lives, solve that problem in the simplest way possible, and then build it. Fill your team with designers and developers who can creatively overcome their own specific roadblocks, and iterate on your initial idea until users need and want what you’re selling.
What’s surprising about this process and the idea of iteration in particular is how purely intuitive it can be. A good product manager will always have UX (user experience) in mind, and it’s essential that the product’s intention be translated accurately into the feature set that is handed off to developers. This is frequently done with the knowledge that the first iteration will not be wildly successful, in which case you gather feedback and try again. “Getting it right” in this game is incredibly difficult, and this is reflected by the fact that over time, most startups fail.
Generally we chalk this success or failure up to bad timing, poor execution, lack of funding, bad marketing, bad design, and so on. Certainly these factors play large roles in the long-term success of a project, but the big picture is not that simple. Taking a look at the companies that have exploded over the last few years, you will notice that they suffer from many of these same issues. For instance, Facebook is poorly designed, has suffered from bad press for years, and has a bad record of forcing features on users that are initially decried as unacceptable. However, Facebook’s year-over-year user growth has remained one of the highest industry-wide and it boasts over 400 million unique log-ins per day. Clearly it’s doing enough stuff right to overcome its failings.