“We don’t want you to come in and take over…”

“…we have a strong vision and solid market traction,” he said.

We were sitting on a downtown, rooftop-patio.

He was recruiting a product leader for their seed-stage startup.

“Of course, you don’t,” I said, “you’re the co-founder”

“You’ve invested a ton to get here. No founder is going to blindly hand over the reigns,” I went on.

He relaxed a bit.

“…but we do have big skill gaps on product side and adoption isn’t where we need it to be,“ he confided.

“Right, you need a partner. Someone willing to hop in the trenches with you and make the founder-vision a reality. They need a real seat-at-the-table, but it’s all about amplifying and supporting your vision.“

“Yeah, that’s right,” he said.

….

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Founders pay dearly for startups.

Health. Marriages. Relationships with kids. Reputation. Savings. Credit.

It’s all risked for the sake of the startup.

That’s not hyperbole — it’s reality.

Risking bankruptcy and divorce is no small thing.

You can’t under-appreciate the sacrifice.

You also can’t be too critical of a founder’s product management blind spots.

By the time founders bring in a product leader, they’ve outperformed two-thirds of startups out there. (Only 1/3 of seed-funded startups go on to receive Series A funding)

They’re good founders, not product management gurus.

That’s why they hired you — to change how they build and manage product.

Product leaders who “get this”, take a more humble and productive posture towards founders.

Humility is ESSENTIAL for startup product leaders.

The founders are inviting you on their journey. And in many cases, their life’s work.

It’s an honor and a privilege.

Even a hint of ‘product superiority’ and you’ll be (rightfully) rejected.

At the end of the day, founders and product leaders play complimentary roles.

The foundation of their partnership is mutual respect and humility.


Articles for Startup Product Leaders
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