As is customary at the year’s end, I wanted to reflect and write a post for our productboard community. I thought about what to write and then I realized I’d already said it in an internal message to our team. And since we have a culture built on transparency, I decided to turn it into an open letter and share it with all of you here.
I also realized that there has been a lot written about leadership, but there are very few concrete examples, especially from the startup world. I hope you can take something from my post and in return, comment and tell me what you think.
Happy new year to all and thank you so much for being part of productboard!
Sent via Slack: January 1st, 2016:
Happy new year @everyone!
2015 has been an amazing year and I want to take a moment to reflect.
When we entered 2015 there were just three of us, random prototypes, but no real product, no users, no customers, no funding, no office, but we had a strong vision. Vision that we can change the lives of all the people who make product decisions, that we can help startups and corporations alike to make products that people really want.
The beginnings weren’t easy, most people thought we were crazy, most people didn’t believe we can make a difference, but we did.
We grew our team, raised funding, had a great San Francisco hacker house period, participated at conferences, had fun during our retreat in Lisbon, opened real offices. We first launched private beta, interviewed hundreds of product managers, and later gained first paying customers. Our Product Hunt appearance came as an amazing surprise that brought many people’s attention to our endeavor and put us on the map.
We are exiting 2015 with a cutting edge product, with highly differentiated user experience. We have many paying customers and hundreds of users, real revenue coming in, we have a team stronger than ever. Our competitors are rightfully afraid, our customers love us. Lots to be proud of.
My thanks goes to all of you, for your hard work, your perseverance, your creativity, and dedication. Your attention to detail and your desire to make something truly great even if it means long hours and many iterations before perfection is achieved. I am grateful I can be on the team with you.
Not everything went great though. I have made mistakes. I have mis-hired, asked you to build features that we’d scrap or redo later, changed focus a little more than I’d like to. I hope you trust me though, the same way I trust you, that I have the best of intentions and that I do everything I can to learn from and recover from the mistakes I’ve made. I believe you trust me in my goal to make productboard a truly great, world-class and respected company. That you appreciate my desire to make productboard the absolutely number one choice for any product leader and decision maker on earth.
2016 is going to be a defining year.
We need to continue making absolutely amazing product with utterly differentiated user experience. We need to continue investing into scalability, flexibility, security, and our ability to learn incredibly fast.
We need to learn and optimize how to share our vision and the benefits of our service with our target segment in broader market. It will be a lot of creative experimenting and learning, which means a lot of fun. (OK, frustration as well, but mainly fun.)
Thanks to our increasingly validated product-market fit, we will be transitioning from a small, scrappy startup. We will still be a startup but a bit more mature one. We will need to grow the team, learn how to get organized and work together optimally, learn how to sustain our culture. All that while staying focused, dedicated, hungry and nimble. It will require great leadership, brilliant execution, and a can-do attitude. It will be hard, but we know how to do it and I am hopeful we will do great.
We will need to withstand the pressure and lure of really big deals that are off our ideal target segment. I promise to guard us from spreading ourselves too thin, from, as Geoffrey Moore puts it, the deadly sales-driven culture.
When we will look back at the end of 2016, we will see a striving team, hundreds of happy paying customers, we will have unstoppable momentum. We will have touched and improved lives of thousands product leaders all around the world. I am confident about that.
Once again thank you so much for being part of productboard and for all your contribution. I am looking forward to an amazing 2016. My door (and slack) is always open to any feedback, ideas, and suggestions.
Here’s to 2016, here’s to helping product leaders make products people really want.