#4 Good & Bad Product Managers

👌 Good PM / Bad PM, 🔫 Learning to learn, 🦄 Startup job board and more!

I’m Ivan Landabaso, VC at JME.vc. I also love surfing and combat sports. Welcome to Startup Riders, your bi-weekly startup caffeine ☕.


  • 👌 Good PM / Bad PM: A must-read classic from Mr. Horowitz.

  • 🔫 Learning to learn: Lessons for startups from Call of Duty Warzone.

  • 🦄 Startup job board: A list of recently funded startup jobs.

  • 💵 Recent Deals: Carnovo, IriusRisk, Emjoy, Devengo, etc

  • 💭Thinking or Reading: Stanford’s presentation tips, Spotify wins and more!

Check out the Community Group to meet fellow riders and share your experience 🤙

👌 Good PM / Bad PM

Product Management has become very popular in recent times, to the point where information overload can confuse startup founders.

Product Management is a highly leveraged function - their decisions tend to have a disproportionately large impact on a startup’s trajectory. Instead of focusing on PM trends and fads, you can rely on these Principles from Ben Horowitz’ classic “Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager”.

Here’s the TL;DR - although you should really print and post this document in your office:

  • BE the Product’s CEO: Needs to set a clear vision, excel at execution and possess the ability to generate trusted leadership. Avoid acting as a marketing resource, avoid excuses - practice Extreme Ownership (Navy Seal Jocko Willink).

  • Master the art of BALANCE: Needs to understand the company’s goals and how product teams feed into them, their complexity and inter-dependence. This requires nuance, humility and the ability to clearly state what you know you don’t know. You must balance goals with customer empathy, the ability to actively listen, and a good understanding of your startup’s competition. Good PM’s have the ability to think ahead and monitor their assumptions.

  • Master COMMUNICATION: Good product managers clearly define product requirements - in writing. Good product managers know that engineers are scientists by nature and value data much more than opinion. A good test of a product manager is for someone outside the product team to ask 5 different people in engineering, QA, and doc what their product is supposed to do and why and get the same answer.

  • Have a great RELATIONSHIP WITH SALES: Good PMs are loved by the salesforce. They know that if Sales doesn't like their product, they will fail. To win them over, they have to be some combination of: 1. Focused on making them money 2. Knowledgeable of what actually happens in the field 3. Around / Responsive / Good Presenter / Fun.

Horowitz states that to excel as a PM you also need to:

  1. Be paranoid. Really paranoid.

  2. Work well with executives.

  3. Leverage the entire organization.

  4. Use whatever intensity is required to close critical issues.

🔫 Learning to Learn

⚠️ Disclaimer: I’m going to Geek Out (big time) on this section. If you're not into it, scroll through to Vilfredo Pareto.

Learning fast is a core skill for any entrepreneur. I didn’t expect that a video-game - a First Person Shooter - could teach me so much about learning as a skill during Covid (yes, it’s also a great excuse to feel like a kid again).

Call of Duty Warzone is a free-to-play battle royale video game, meaning there’s 150 people on a single map - looking to kill each-other until only one team remains. Over 75 million people play the game - for good reason.

In this jaw-dropping video, Nekodificador breaks down ACCELERATED LEARNING as a skill into a set of principles, applied to Call of Duty Warzone - which takes him from performing poorly, to ranking in the top 10% percentile in the blink of an eye.

1. Understand How Your Mind Learns

The environment we operate in within Call of Duty is subject to a set of related elements that are subject to a set of concrete rules.

Observing the elements within an environment helps us identify how they are connected / influence each-other. This allows us to draw conclusions, that can help us get ahead in a game like Warzone. The lesson here is: instead of memorizing information, pay attention to the underlying fundamentals. Depending on what we learn - information gets stored in different places within our minds:

  • Semantic memory: requires conscious attention and is based on axioms. For instance, it helps you retrieve information about the meaning of a red stop sign, and is based on a set of inferences / connections (red + octagon + letters = stop). How to accelerate semantic learning: connect new information with already processed / learned information.

  • Procedural memory: based on procedures, it relies on repetition and action fixation. For instance, allows you to know how to speak, read, ride a bike, practice martial arts etc. How to accelerate procedural learning: isolate components and perform deliberate practice in a controlled environment.

The key with these 2 types of memory (and there are more) - when it comes to accelerated learning - is to transfer our decision making load from the conscious mind (your RAM) to the unconscious mind (your HDD).

For instance, in a complex environment like a game of football, we can’t consciously pay attention to all elements simultaneously (i.e. kicking the ball, covering the defense, identifying space…). We commit each of this elements, as much as possible, to the subconscious - freeing up RAM to take decisions.

The take-away: Accelerate how we commit learnings to our unconscious mind, so we can perform instinctively and free up or conscious mind for new situations.

2. Identify Main Axioms

Axioms are the fundamental concepts that emerge in a given environment. We can use these 5 key questions to identify fundamentals: What? Who? How? When? Why?

In Warzone for instance, some axioms include:

  • Shooting Aim: Practicing Aim-Down-Sight speed micro-movements (flicking), practicing centering - focusing your eyes on where you want to shoot and moving the world around you (instead of placing the crosshairs on the enemy) etc.

  • Recoil Control: Identifying vertical / horizontal recoil, deliberate practice using different weapons in a controlled environment (bots), with different attachments.

  • Field-of-View: identifying which gun sights obstruct less field of view.

  • Storming Buildings: understanding how to use angles to your advantage (both horizontal and vertical). For instance, engaging from an elevated position, using walls to your back strategically etc.

  • Offensive Mindset: the mental attitude of being on offense is a huge advantage - you are being proactive, and the enemy is reacting. Even when on patrol, you should be on the offensive - not reacting / being chased.

  • Communication: clear, short and effective communication is key and should be practiced in a controlled environment. Advantages include: spotting enemies, reduced time to kill, surviving the Gulag etc.

3. Set Clear Goals

Now that we understand the fundamental axioms that underly a given problem, we can set clear deliberate practice goals. Through deliberate practice we can commit learnings to the subconscious, and free up capacity for more complex problem solving.

Conclusion: in a startup environment, faced with a particular problem that requires us to learn FAST - we can follow these 3 steps to gain an advantage:

  • Understand: Understand how your mind works (i.e. Semantic Vs. Procedural).

  • Identify: Identify the main axioms underlying the problem.

  • Execute: Set clear goals, and undertake deliberate practice to free up RAM.

And if all of this confuses you, just remember what our friend Vilfredo Pareto discovered, and live by it:

🦄 New Startup job board

We launched a job board! You can use it to find OR post jobs from recently funded Spanish startups 👉 click here.

💵 Recent Deals

💭Thinking or Reading

Stanford Business School - Tips on public speaking

According to this presentation (with pretty awkward speakers I must say…) making gestures with your palm up will help you get more people onboard.

Spotify’s CEO Lessons

Amazing interview with Daniel Ek, the founder and CEO of Spotify. Highlights:

  • Walking time = prime thinking time

  • Minimize meetings and maximize coaching (help others optimize their time)

  • Know the specific role you’re playing with people and meetings

Navy Seal Jocko Willink’s “GOOD” Approach To Life

Whenever you are having a bad day, watch this 2 minute video.

P.S. Thank you all for getting us featured on TechCrunch!

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