Short answer: I don’t think so. I argue that it’s the founder who must shoulder the responsibilities of a product manager and be the person dedicated to creating not only a project’s vision, but also lead all the early-stage product development.
And why would I be so certain of that? Well, I can speak from personal experience.
I’m currently working on developing a new SAAS platform for SEO audit and monitoring. Buddler.AI is a startup, no doubt, and in my efforts toward making the project take off, I spent a month searching for a person who could turn my ideas and vision into clear concepts and technical tasks.
Dozens of interviews and great candidates later, I was happy to have found a suitable person.
We hit the ground running but…
It finally hit me. Something was off.
If you want to delegate product development to a PM, you have to “infect” them with your idea and make sure that you’re both on the same page at all times.
Sharing a vision and understanding a market niche is far more complicated than creating precise instructions to be implemented by your team. And starting a new project, you’ll already have enough of other thorny issues to be busy with anyway.
There are a few other reasons why an early-stage startup doesn’t need a product manager:
- Close communication with developers is incredibly useful for startup founders. It helps creating actionable guiding lines, enables a deeper understanding of technical challenges and ultimately can create the path for the best decisions to be made;
- The early stages of any project are all about change. The smaller the team, the easier it will be to change the course of action if needed. Flexibility is key.
And, more importantly, when getting started with a new project, you shouldn’t be aiming to find a person with the all right job titles in their CV. Instead, you should be seeking people with a burning fire in their soul, steadfast determination, and the hunger to make your vision happen.
It’s considerably easier to find such people when you already have a product with a concise positioning as well as, preferably, some early indicators of success.
As a piece of advice I myself keep in mind and am now also sharing with other founders, best discourage the impulse to delegate essential tasks during the early stages and be laser-focused on creating a clear and practical demonstration of why vision is right – and worth working for.