Fran Oliveira4 min

Applying Basic Product Management Processes in Early-Stage Startups

ProductProcessFeb 16, 2023



Feb 16, 2023

Fran OliveiraProduct Manager

Share this article

Product Management as a discipline and the tech economy it services are so dynamic that it’s often hard to think about common pitfalls. But there are a few things I wish I’d known when I started my own businesses — things our Product team has been applying every day for years.

Starting a business can be a wild ride. There are so many things to think about, so many decisions to make — and one thing that can easily fall by the wayside is Product Management. But having a solid strategy in place can make all the difference in the success of your business.

A pivotal step that sets you up for the long term is applying certain basic Product Management processes from the very beginning stages of your startup. By doing so, you’ll get to know your business and industry more, which will let you plan out the next steps with a lot less guesswork.

The point is to get real-world data in your day-to-day digital activities, so your product closely reflects what the public wants and extracts your team’s potential to the fullest.

Building a business and managing the development of a product are extremely similar experiences.

There’s the comparable last-minute hassle of putting everything together for a major release. But even more than that, Product Management is defined as the art, science and practice of making successful products — which is the very goal of any business owner.

One key Product Management process is assessing product success, which starts with evaluating user adoption, customer satisfaction and business impact. Building a business without this step would be like playing a game without knowing the rules.

Then there’s achieving consistent success, which requires a combination of unique customer and market insights, innovative product solutions and strict execution across all teams involved. Anyone with the skills to bring these factors together has the potential to excel in Product Management — or build a lasting business.

Which processes from the Product Manager's game plan should you apply to your early-stage startup?

Efficient Product Management ensures that the products a business creates are valuable, usable, feasible and in demand by customers. As entrepreneurs, we want our startups to be all of those things — because it results in higher revenue and market success.

One of the big differences I see between a startup founder and a skilled Product Manager lies in experience. The Product Manager uses processes and methodologies which most startup founders don’t know about or which don’t necessarily come naturally to them.

Listed below are some Product Management steps that can benefit every startup founder.

Step 1: Defining the problem

This sets the foundation for the product vision. By understanding what customers want and need, we can identify the problems that need to be solved — thereby creating a product that will be valuable and in demand.

I wish I’d known this when I started my business. I spent so much time trying to come up with the next big thing, instead of focusing on solving a real problem for a specific market segment.

Step 2: Quantifying the opportunity

Determining the size of the market and how much demand there is for the product is key; it helps us make informed decisions about whether or not to invest in the idea. It also helps us understand the potential competition and identify gaps/opportunities in the market.

Step 3: Researching potential solutions

Looking for ways to solve the problem identified in Step 1 can be a difficult task as we may not have the same level of expertise or resources as larger companies. However, by being creative and resourceful, we can come up with unique solutions that set us apart from the competition.

Step 4: Building an MVP

Once a solution is validated, we can build an MVP (minimum viable product) with a tech stack that meets the needs of both our product and users. This step involves creating a simple version of the product to test its functionality and gather customer feedback.

This critical step allows us to test the product in the market and make adjustments based on customer feedback before investing in a full-scale launch. Fail fast and fail forward.

Step 5: Creating a feedback loop

Gathering periodic customer feedback and using it to improve the product helps us stay in tune with our customers’ needs and make sure the product is meeting those needs.

Once you’re familiar with these steps, you’ll recognize them in most leading products’ success stories.

Take the evolution of the wildly successful Uber app. Look familiar?

  1. Recognized a lack of a reliable, convenient transportation option (defining the problem)
  2. Analyzed the market and realized there was massive demand (quantifying the opportunity)
  3. Pinpointed the winning idea: connecting riders with drivers through a mobile app (researching potential solutions)
  4. Started with just a few cities and gradually expanded (building an MVP)
  5. Constantly gathers customer feedback and improves the app (creating a feedback loop)

This five-step approach has been paramount to Uber’s global takeover. But to be clear: It’s all easier said than done.

Personally, I had to learn the hard way — wasting resources only to realize that if I’d had the necessary knowledge, money and time would have been better spent, my decisions would have been faster and backed by a lot more data, and the rate of success would have been drastically amplified.

Getting it right is no small feat. It takes either painstaking attention to every step or a team that’s been down the road before. Whatever your approach, it’s sure to change the game.

In PMs we trust.

Share this article

Sign up to our newsletter

Monthly updates, real stuff, our views. No BS.