Has Lean Startup Methodology Changed Since I Worked at IMVU?

I recently did an AMA on Growthhackers.com and thought some of the answers were worth sharing as blog posts. I’ll also add a bit of content or elaborate on the answers.

A good question I got from Edward Stephens: How much has the original “lean methodology” implemented at IMVU had to change to keep up with current trends or has it and does it continue to withstand the tests of time?

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Evaluating On-Demand Service Businesses

A couple months ago, I was attempting to understand good retention for an on-demand service business. I was trying to get benchmarks for what good cohort retention rates would look like for businesses such as food delivery, groceries, laundry, and home cleaning. The goal of this post is to summarize my key learnings about how to evaluate on-demand, service based businesses

In my role at Naspers, we help a variety of companies with their core metrics. Having had less experience with on-demand service businesses, my goal was to get benchmarks for what was good and great in the space to help our portfolio companies evaluate their performance.

I ended up learning that the benchmarks are not all that valuable unless you are taking a number of other metrics and variables into account. My key learnings from the knowledgeable experts in the Greylock Partners Growth Community were the following:

  • The cohort curve needs to flatten out at some point. If it continues to decline to 0, that’s much more challenging and a product market-fit question.
  • It’s important that the LTV payback time of the cohort happens relatively quickly and predictably, preferably within the first 6 months
  • The density of the business matters. Oftentimes, the way these sorts of businesses scale is largely dependent on the density of customers and the ability of a single service person to work across multiple customers in a given geography
  • It varies quite widely based on the type of service based business.

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3 Ways Empathy Can Help Your Career

Back when I had a career coach, (her name is Teri Dahlbeck and she’s amazing) one of the most important lessons she taught me was the power of empathy. Like many people, I was fairly young in my career, assumed I was always right, and I would occasionally get into arguments with folks about who was right or wrong about a product feature, metric, business decision, or some other detail. She accurately identified this early on, and we spent a lot of time discussing how empathy can solve many of the problems.

The dictionary definition of empathy is : the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings. It seems simple, but the application in the workplace is often fairly complicated.

In this post, I want to cover three areas in my career where empathy has been incredibly helpful:

  1. Defusing conflict with co-workers
  2. Communicating and selling others on priorities (especially when those people don’t report to you)
  3. Having more effective 1:1s and interactions with direct reports

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Being Successful in Your First 90 Days at a New Job

Hopefully my last couple posts helped you get through negotiations and you now have a job at a startup or tech company. How do you ensure success in your new role?

When starting a new job, you’ve got a short window to make a great impression. You also need to set yourself up for success in what may be a role you occupy for 1-5 years or beyond.

If you walk in the door without a plan and just hope your new manager will have everything ready to go, you’re making a big mistake. Every time I start a new job, I find my manager is  really busy and just hopes to throw me into the fray to see what I’m capable of. It’s always easier to assume that this will be the case, and then when you do have that perfect manager, you’ll be over prepared.

In my experience, you have 90 days to make a great first impression.

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The Soft Skills Required in Salary Negotiation

Sandi from Quibb had a great suggestion to write a post about the soft skills needed for salary negotiation, so I decided to take a shot at it here. Would definitely love any feedback!

As outlined in my last post, there are many tactical elements you must consider when negotiating an offer. However, this post did not cover how to properly convey these messages to a potential hiring company. That’s the goal of this post.

For sake of simplicity, let’s assume that you have already received one or more offers (again, congratulations, that’s awesome!). And you have decided that you are going to negotiate with a company for a higher offer for any number of reasons.
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How to Negotiate Your Offer at a Tech Company (or anywhere)

I had been writing versions of this, and then Eric Bahn wrote an excellent post outlining all the elements of a startup job offer, so I can spend far less time defining everything. For many of the terms I’m talking about here, I highly recommend reading his recently published article here.

I’ve been on both sides of job negotiations, both as the job-seeker and as the hiring manager. So, I’ve seen a fair number of tactics executed in the process of people attempting to match a new role for themselves.

This post is designed to help the job-seeker through the negotiation process.
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Building Great Landing Pages

In part one, I wrote about how to optimize your registration modal. However, there’s quite a bit more to building a great registration experience.

For one, your advertising or SEO content needs to land the user on a page or experience that matches what they were searching for.

If a user is looking for clothing and they click on a page about T shirts, it’s always going to be better to land them on a page that highlights T shirts that are available on your site, and even better if you can land them on the specific shirt they hoped to buy.

However, if you also hope to collect their email address during this process, you can attempt a lot of tactics on your pages to convince your users to give you their information.

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4 Ways to Optimize your Reg Wall

How to optimize your signup experience?

There’s often a debate that happens at companies – should you force registration or should you allow your site to be open to users and then hope to provide enough value that they register later.

While I understand the merits of the second and think that optimizing the experience to reveal some parts of the site is great, giving the entire experience away for free is a waste of an opportunity to capture the email and other valuable information about a user. It’s telling that the majority of leading web services force you to register (and most always have).

The intent of this post is to describe how to optimize your reg wall to get the most people through your process, to collect the critical information you need, and have as low a bounce rate as possible.

There’s also a lot of evidence that collecting more email addresses is almost always a net positive for revenue and engagement.

There are going to be a series of multiple posts going through various important parts of how to optimize your registration experience. In the first one, I’m going to do a quick case study on how to optimize the actual reg wall itself and the experience around it.

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So, You Want to be a Product Manager?

How do you become a product manager?

Its not a job that has a single path in. It’s not like consulting, banking, or law where you go step by step through the process, do the right thing, and end up one day leading a product management organization.

Personally, I randomly picked Intuit’s Rotational Development Program to start my career. I couldn’t have described the difference between product management and any other job at the time, and really didn’t even understand what I’d be doing until I actually started. I just had used QuickBooks for one of my dad’s businesses and thought “hey, that software wasn’t too bad, maybe I should work for them.”

Good PMs can literally come from anywhere, with a variety of backgrounds. It doesn’t necessarily require a technical background, a business background, or anything. I know PMs who are just as good coming from a technical background as those who may have studied something as non-tech related as English in school.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t defining characteristics. I wrote about that pretty extensively in an earlier post. So how do you open the door to become a product person in the first place?

It certainly depends a bit where you’re coming from, so I’ll try to go through some scenarios on how to get that first PM job or get the skills where someone will even consider you an acceptable candidate.

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How to Structure Your Consumer Facing Product Team

I’ve been asked a fair amount, how should product management be structured at my organization or startup?

There’s not a perfect answer, but there are some principles.

Guiding Principles

Any good product management structure should have the following characteristics:
  • There’s a singular person (a CPO, VP of Product, CEO, Head of Product) leading the organization responsible for setting direction, vision, customer focus, and metric focus
  • Each of the product owners should have tightly focused areas of interconnected responsibility. In the majority of cases, it’s easiest if each PM has 1 or 2 key metrics that they are focused on.
  • When combined together, moving these metrics advances the company towards the product vision and increases the success of the company. If you move all your metrics up and the right and you aren’t improving as a business, it’s time to pick new metrics
  • It should be obvious and apparent what area each product owner runs, what metrics they are responsible for, and how it impacts the business. If you have a PM working on special projects that don’t advance your startup, it’s time to question the purpose of the role (and you might need to fire the person if they can’t be repurposed)
  • Product organizations are adaptable. As the business evolves, they need to grow and evolve with it, either to tackle new areas of the business or to fix problems in existing areas.

What follows are different examples of how you can think about structuring your product organization.

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