Growing as a Product Manager in Secondary Startup Markets — Part I

February 3, 2020

I was recently reminded of Fred Wilson's post Second and Third Tier Markets And Beyond in which he discussed the challenges founders and investors face in markets outside of Silicon Valley.

This post and the conversation around it, led me to start thinking about the other roles in startup ecosystems differ drastically depending on their environment. I decided to begin by examining what it is like to become a PM outside of the Valley. Hint: it’s tough, luck plays a large role, you need a supportive team and you have to love to hustle.

As I began digging into the differences between product management in emerging startup ecosystems vs. locations where the mentorship and resources run deep, I became reflective on my evolution from my very first days all the way to my current perspectives on effectively managing a product.

Given that the Product Manager and Product Marketing Manager roles are so prevalent in the Valley, I figured more decorated PM’s than I had written on what they had learned. My assumption was correct. In this search I came across 50 Things I’ve Learned About Product Management by John Cutler on Medium. While I highly recommend you read the entire list, point number 6 stuck with me:

The best way to get people off your back is to deliver value continuously (with data to back it up). Real results (and a proud team) eat everything for breakfast.

I started as an extremely green product manager, but by far the easiest way to get buy-in from your team is to produce results using the skill-set you have at your disposal. However, what is even more crucial that you never stop growing the skill-set you have at your disposal so you are able to continuously deliver value and insight.

Product management is one of the most desired startup jobs in the Bay Area, and as the entrepreneurial culture begins to spread to other metros, the competition for these jobs will be fierce. There will always be someone more experienced and better qualified but if you enjoy the grind of learning, success will find you.


"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood, don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
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