Good Product Manager vs Bad Product Manager

Over the past few weeks I’ve been reading “The Hard Thing about Hard Things”, a great book by Ben Horowitz, would definitely recommend for anyone working in fast growing companies or teams that are looking for advice across all facets of a business.

As I was reading through the book, I came across an excerpt written by Ben titled “Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager” where he walks through some of the good and bad qualities of product managers across a variety of industries.

In essence, he states that good product managers know the market, the product, the product line and the competition extremely well and operates from a strong basis of knowledge and confidence. They are the CEO and owner of that product and they must take full responsibility for the success or failure of the product. They are responsible for right product/right time and all that entails. A good product manager knows the context going in (the company, our revenue funding, competition, etc.), and they take responsibility for devising and executing a winning plan (no excuses).

Bad product managers have lots of excuses. Not enough funding, the engineering manager is an idiot, Microsoft has 10 times as many engineers working on it, I’m overworked, I don’t get enough direction. They voice their opinion verbally and lament that the “powers that be” won’t let it happen. Once bad product managers fail, they point out that they predicted they would fail. They define good products that can’t be executed or let engineering build whatever they want (i.e. solve the hardest problem). They get very confused about the differences amongst delivering value, matching competitive features, pricing, and ubiquity. Good product managers decompose problems. Bad product managers combine all problems into one.

You can read the entire excerpt here:

Value Proposition

Recently I had to write a paper on value proposition for a class and it got me thinking about the value that we bring to the table beyond a company or product.

Value proposition, in my opinion is a simple concept that many fail to execute. It’s simply the value, or benefit that you are giving to, or providing the customer. If your company or product has no value proposition, no one will be interested in buying your product or signing up for your service.

This concept applies to more than just the business world, it applies to college life and life after graduation. Career fairs are a great example of that. It’s important to understand that after you’ve graduated, you will be get a slip of paper with your degree just like everyone else in your class. In addition to the knowledge you’ve procured through your education, what else separates you from your peers, your competition? What is your value proposition? Every club you’re involved in, every internship you take, and every project you do is your value. It’s what sets you apart. That’s your value proposition. Find your value and sell it.

They say getting a college education is crucial and that it’ll help you get a job and support a family, but is it really the education you get in your classes or what you learn outside of that classroom. What’s your value proposition?

What Silicon Valley has taught me – Day 2

On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to speak to a few more start-ups with Illinois roots. First up was Kelly Berger, CEO and Founder of Obseshen. They have since changed their name that I can’t recall at the moment, but essentially, Obseshen allows you to accessorize your room without hiring an interior designer. Kelly was born and raised in Illinois. He received his engineering degree from UIUC. Kelly was, most recently, at Danger, Inc., the company that created the T-Mobile Sidekick device and where he met his fellow Tiny Prints co-founder, Ed Han. After it was acquired by Shutterfly, he started working on Obseshen. He gave us very useful advice on determining whether an idea is worth pursuing. It essentially boils down to whether it solves a problem, can it be scaled, and if can be monetized. Following his talk, we had an opportunity to speak with the CEO of Malwarebytes.

Marcin Kleczynski, the CEO of Malwarebytes, received his bachelors in Computer Science from UIUC. He currently leads the strategic expansion of the business as well as overseeing the long-term vision for the research and development teams. He spent a good deal of time talking to us about his struggles with computer security in high school and spoke to us about how he started work on computer security software in high school. He continued working on his company through college and graduated with a degree while managing a company that had over 10 million users. Like Siebel, Marcin encouraged us to pursue an education, build networks through school and work, and then work on a start-up.

Next up was Ishimaru and Associates LLP. Mikio Ishimaru, the founder of the patent prosecution and litigation firm, spoke to us about his humble beginnings in the United States. His parents were interned in internment camps during World War II. He had hoped to never return to California after his family had moved to New York, but eventually found his way back to Silicon Valley. He supports the school of thought that states that entrepreneurs are made, and not born. He told us a story about his involvement in gangs as a young teen in New York. 1 of the members is currently in an asylum, 2 of them are currently in a federal penitentiary, 1 of them became and priest, and he became the founder of a multi-million dollar law firm. He too is a graduate of UIUC, receiving a bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. He had never thought he would be involved in law, but after discovering many problems with patent prosecution and litigation, he decided to start up his own firm. His current office in San Jose embodies the principles that he holds himself to.

The last stop was TiE Angels, a group of Indus entrepreneurs and angel investors that hope to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. They invited us to a dinner they were holding that night for all UIUC Alumni in the area, allowing us to network with many people, like us, who have found a sense of innovation and entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. They also allowed us to pitch a few of our ideas and gave us very constructive feedback as to what we need to be able to do in order to sell a pitch to a potential investor.

Overall, it was a great day. All of the companies we had visited had different perspectives about what it takes to be successful in silicon valley, but allowed us to learn from their experiences. Bring on Day 2!

What SnoHassle has taught me

SnoHassle is project that a friend and I took on to solve a common problem on campus – bike damage and theft over winter break. We noticed that many students leave their bikes out in the cold and in the open over winter break, often resulting in theft of the bike or damage. SnoHassle allows students to protect their bikes over winter break by transporting and storing their bikes in a secure facility. You can visit the website online at After a successful launch, I’ve come to learn a few important things about business and marketing. These techniques can be applied to any business venture.

  1. Create the impression of scarcity among your offerings. Potential clients are more inclined to purchase a product or service at that instant if they feel that there is a limited quantity available or if you’re going to be sold out. This can be achieved through emphasizing the rarity of your service, or by simply offering limited quantities of products or services.

2. Limit options. When a potential client has to look through several products or several services, they experience “decision paralysis”, which restricts their ability to make a decision. When possible, offer limited products. If you have several products or services, highlight one that offers the best value for the client, allowing them to make a decision quickly. This worked well for SnoHassle, offering only one service, allowing clients to make quick decisions.

3. Offer speed or convenience. People today want everything quick and as soon as possible. Most people are willing to pay extra to get that convenience  or speed. By promising an “instant download” or “super fast shipping” your client is much more inclined to be motivated by getting something quickly. SnoHassle provided convenience to students with a specific problem. Allowing them to ensure their bike is protected without ever moving their bike.

4. Lastly, Be Professional! This applies to everything you do regarding your business and interacting with clients. When contacting your clients, address them professionally and acknowledge their concerns quickly. Apply this in any form of communication, with you clients, and within your company. Maintain a clean a website, and stay uniform in your design. These little steps play a larger role when it comes to attracting clients and ensuring your clients return.

What tips do you have for someone interested in starting their own company? Comment below: