Exclusive: Bo Ren’s Answers to Your Webinar Questions

Our webinar with Bo Ren last week, one of the tech industry’s leaders in product management, was such a smashing success, many of you had questions we didn’t get the chance to an answer. But have no fear. Bo heard your questions and put together answers to help you on your road to PM success.

What is your investment thesis?

“There is an entire class of underserved founders who are not captured by existing VCs. We need to have a new wave of venture capitalists and founders who are as representative and diverse as the products they build. We need to map economic returns to founder attributes and focus on culture-building from day one. I believe in capturing VC’s blind spots by investing in high-caliber founders who have been overlooked by the homogeneity of existing venture capitalists.”

How do you keep up with competitors?

“Always learn and read up on new market trends, talk to people who are experts, and don’t be afraid to sign up for online courses outside of work. Be intellectually curious about new spaces, ideas, and products. Think about what you can learn from your competitors. Dogfood and beta test new products and think about what you would do differently. Think about how your competitors could kill you (your product/company).”

You said that there was no open door for you, so how did you actually manage to “crack in”?

“Sometimes you can’t get into a space head-on, so look for adjacent and lateral moves. If you can’t see an opportunity looking at the world vertically, shift your perspective horizontally — you will be surprised by how many options lie before you. Playing the game of inches can compound into large returns and quantum leaps!”

How did you convince people of your skills in interviews with a liberal arts background? That’s been a big wall for me, and I even majored in Stage Management!

“You really need master storytelling, explaining why your liberal arts background adds diversity and comparative advantage to your existing skill set. You can read my Medium post here and there.”

How much do you have to be into marketing realm while working as a product manager?

“As a PM, you’re working closely with product marketing and marketing folks to weave a good story about the product or feature you’re building. This includes messaging and launch timelines for the grand reveal. You need to communicate often — and over communicate. Have frequent check-ins with marketing and PMM (product marketing manager) throughout the product development process, instead of just at the end. I work together with PMMs to create marketing timelines, weekly updates, and checklists for the product I am building.”

What do you think are the biggest obstacles when you’re working as part of a small team, and how did you overcome them at the startups you worked at?

“Resource and time constraints are always critical for small teams. You need to think about how to find the most efficient path to solving a problem and also scale accordingly. Depending on the company’s life stage, think about how you would scale your work and automate rote tasks. Your job as a Series A startup employee is very different from a post-IPO employee. For smaller teams, you have to be many things (product manager, operations manager, scrum master, ad hoc designer) so ‘done is better than perfect’. Make sure that you’re not reactive to demands. Don’t mistake motion for progress. Make sure you ask for help when you’re overtasked and stretched. Operating on smaller teams require more load balancing of work, so be sure to over communicate when you need additional headcount or outsourcing your day-to-day work.”

Outside of on the job experience what else would you recommend that product managers early in their career do?

“Read often, dive into arts and culture, travel, observe the world through childhood wonder, and experience as much shared humanity as possible. You’d be surprised how being in ‘beginner’s mindset’ will help you find magic in the most unlikely places. The more well-rounded of a human you become, the better you will be as a builder. Get out of your bubble and comfort zone to start thinking about how the rest of the world operates.”

Who is developing the app you mentioned that helps people take back their time?

“Thrive app in partnership with Samsung. Get it here.”

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