No place like home – A look into Zillow (NYSE:ZG)

I’ve often talked about 10K’s as being the perfect way to get up to speed in a new industry. Once a month a few of us PMs get together and do a deep dive on a particular company via its 10k. We call it our “10K a month” club :). Drop me a note if you want to be added to the group, the more diverse viewpoints the better the learnings! Last month we researched and chatted about Zillow. Highlights from our conversation follow.Read More »

Dear Tech CEOs, start learning about the history of finance | History repeats edition

A16z’s Angela Strange has a very correct take on where financial services are heading. In the future, every company will need to offer financial services in order to compete. Complete vertical integration from click to purchase reduces the most friction for the user, which leads to the best customer experience which leads to a competitive edge. For companies, this is a source of extra high margin that can offset their low margin core business. It also makes the users more sticky – why go anywhere else? I recommend watching the entire presentation in full, very spot on where fintech is headed!

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Strategy vs tactics – why do we get it wrong most of the time?

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The difference between strategy and tactics is the most misunderstood phenomenon. 90% of the time the two are conflated. I recently read (twice, its that good!) the book 7 Powers: The foundation of business strategy by Hamilton Helmer. I highly recommend getting the paper copy of the book to make notes on and see the visuals. I plan to write some posts applying some of the concepts to industries I’m familiar with, but for today I’d like to talk about a basic framework, two sentences that illuminate the difference between strategy and tacticsRead More »

Lessons learned in SMB fintech

In the last post, I highlighted that SMB’s are mostly a long tail business with a majority of the market at the smaller end of the spectrum. An insight that I did not appreciate going into this market is the amount of sensitivity to price. The statement that “There are three things that are most important in SMB, price, price and price” is 100% true! With most small businesses being small and not really in it to grow this price sensitivity makes a ton of sense. So if you are a startup in this space you come across an interesting squeeze.Read More »

Small Business in the USA – myths, and realities

Small Business is the biggest market in the US and this is the best place to start a company in

This is an oft-repeated quote in many pitch decks, sorry to inform you, dear reader, it depends. After spending a decade in the SMB space, I’ve learned a few things – what follows is an attempt to describe some myths and mistakes. Hopefully, you don’t fall into the same traps!

Myth #1: SMB market is huge in the US and is underserved. This represents a big opportunity

The huge number everybody trots out is ~30M small business in the USA, the engine of growth, big big market, main street America – AMURIKA YEAAAAAH. Alas in practical terms this is a long tail market. This data set from the SUSB is the best place to start. Just by looking at the distribution of firms by employee size it is clear that this is a long tail market. There are a large number of firms that are <10 employees.Read More »

Product frameworks |User emotion and feature tradeoffs

I’m a big fan of frameworks, they help us categorize and make sense of the world around us. As you are building products, frameworks help you systematically approach the process. I’ve always been intrigued by Reid Hoffman’s quote that mapped consumer social products to the seven sins. This was a great framework to map a product strategy to a core human instinct, in this case, vices.

With the consumerization of enterprise software can we do something similar? can we get derive a systematic framework that represents emotion in the enterprise world?Read More »

Platform rewrites, part Deux

The last post was about what to avoid, this post is about what you can do to make a migration successful.

Sequencing is key

With any large initiative, the natural impulse is to throw a lot of people at it. Avoid this impulse at all costs. At the beginning of the project, it is better to have a small team of your crack developers and senior engineers and PM’s to focus on building a skeleton of what the end state would be like.

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Platform rewrites, lessons learned

At some point in your product career, you will do a systems migration or a system rewrite. In this two-part series, let’s explore some lessons learned. This first post is about the things to avoid before starting a systems migration. The second post will walk through some practical tips for organizations on the most efficient way to pull this off.

To set the stage – How do you get to the point of needing a rewrite in the first place? The general arc of startups starts with an MVP that is designed quickly. It’s all lean in the beginning, this is the MVP phase. Most backend processes are manual. It makes sense –  you don’t know if there is product-market fit and so you don’t over-engineer and make a full end to end software solution. As you find product-market fit, your user base starts growing exponentially and you enter the bolt-on phase. There isn’t enough time to slow down and add incremental features to the core product to make scaling easier. So you start bolting on hacks on top of hacks, pseudo automation based on excel macros and more policies and procedures to keep up with the growth. Your software system now gets to spaghetti level status.Read More »