This week, BlueChilli’s Sydney offices filled with people from the Sydney startup ecosystem eager to learn about product management.

We live streamed the event – a ‘fireside chat’ on the best and worst ways to build a product.

Watch the video below

Watch the Facebook Live for some wide ranging insights from BlueChilli’s Head of Product, Benjamin F Wirtz, who was interviewed by Xcelerate Director, Megan Flamer.

Read on below for Ben’s answers to some of the key questions asked by Megan and the audience.

  • What do you like so much about Product Management?

Benjamin: I’ve always been someone who’s interested in multiple things and product management is at the intersection of multiple things – technology, design, business. You get to work with a bunch of really awesome and different people – and the process starts with this creative problem solving. You’re working with people from various backgrounds and ways of thinking, and you never stop learning. You’re always learning about different people or industries or a certain aspect of your work. And you do that everyday. Here at BlueChilli there’s the product team, the EIRs, the leadership team and there’s so much to learn and so many awesome insights – it’s very energising.

  • What is Product Management?

Benjamin: The standard definition goes something like – what you’re trying to do is create a product that it’s valuable, usable and feasible. The role of the Product manager is all about the process and journey of getting there. So it’s an an art and science at the same time. You’re doing research, you’re trying to finding out more about a certain problem and then more about a suitable solution.

For us at BlueChilli, it’s a process of guiding (early-stage) founders who have an idea to rediscover and learn more about the problem, and then focus their energies on the right solution. Rather than them having the idea, executing it and then finding out that no one really wants it. Making sure it’s valuable, usable and feasible at the end of the day.

  • You’ve built and have worked with teams that have built many products – can you give us an idea about the journey of how the process works?

Benjamin: People don’t really buy products or services. What they buy is getting a job done better, faster or cheaper.

  • When you go through the problem / solution process, what methods do you use to uncover that and how do you drill down on the problem to figure out the solution as a team?

Benjamin: What product management is trying to do is codify the techniques that played a role in the creation of what we know as the Fortune 500.

They were some clear conscience pattern of how they created the initial products and services and how they managed to grow them. So it’s about making those accessible to everyone and applicable. The techniques we thought were right, we applied them at Atlassian, at Google, and here at BlueChilli with every startup.

Benjamin’s book recommendation: The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick

  • For a Fortune 500 in comparison to a startup, do you build products differently in the two?

Benjamin: It’s about doing the right things at the right time whether you’re a big company or a startup, and whether you’re building something new or a new feature for an existing product. The main problems are data (startups often don’t have any) and decision making (which should be based on data but also depends on a person and company culture)

  • Do you think that’s why people are attracted to an accelerator program? For those key processes?

Benjamin: An accelerator is there to teach you, and to help you move faster from founder to startup CEO. Startups shouldn’t join accelerators for money – the money shouldn’t be a big motivating factor. The money itself is just a tool. The lean model allows you to move fast – competition is always right behind you.

  • If someone has a startup idea and they come to you and ask “What do I do”? What do you say from a product standpoint?

Benjamin: Realise that your idea most likely came from a personal pain-point that you’ve experienced or seen in the world. So don’t focus on that idea, focus on the pain-point and see if others are having that same pain-point.

  • Can you outline what MVP stands for?
Minimum viable product example - building the first version of the solution, not the hacked version.

Minimum viable product example – building the first version of the solution, not one part of the solution (source: Startup.co)

  • How do you know that you’re not getting it right?
  • How important is it that a founder knows about product management?
  • Have you ever worked on a product that you were surprised by the answers you received in validation phase?  
  • How do you define is a product is successful or not?
  • Can you tell us about the frameworks that are sometimes used around those successful metrics?
  • You’re mentioning questions a lot, how do you know what’s a good question and the right questions to ask?

Benjamin: First thing I ask customers is – “how do you do this right now?” Always ask open questions, the hows and the whys are the most important.

  • How do product managers know they’re driving the product in the right direction? (Question from Jonathan on Twitter)
  • For the benefit of future product managers, where do you find the best education or do you recommend to build your own product and educate yourself along the way? (Question from Tony on Facebook)

Benjamin’s recommendations: 

  1. Read Inspired by Marty Cagan
  2. Take courses at General Assembly (full disclosure, Ben is one of their instructors!), and
  3. There are organisations that hire junior Product managers who throw you into the deep end and see if you sink or swim.

More questions from the audience: 

  • When you have a product or service that no one had used before, how do you know what questions to ask when no one has context for it? 
  • Reid Hoffman says you should ship your product when it still embarrasses you. How do you release a MVP that you are embarrassed about but still need to charge for? 
  • Some schools of thought say that you only get one chance to get a product right, how do you know when it’s that situation or when it’s ok to iterate?
  • What happens with a customer might give you a second or third chance, but venture capitalists might not?
  • If you have a great idea and people excited to buy it, but don’t have the expertise to build it, what do you do? 
  • Would you use crowdfunding to finance it?
  • Are there ideas or analogue MVPs that are successful before they build a digital product or company?
  • If you’ve got a product that has potentially three strong markets, how do you figure out which market to chase? Or do you chase all three at the same time?
  • How do you figure out which markets to pursue? 
  • What’s the importance of design thinking in discovering what the problem is you want to solve and how does a Product Manager do that?
  • With a service based business, are there examples where the service was given away for free to get data
  • Which job adds to the post value to the product?
  • Do people reach out to old friends because Facebook made those connections more accessible, or did Facebook solve the pain point of it being hard to connect with old friends?

Benjamin: Products at the end of the day are just tools – they’re made for one purpose and are used for other things.

  • Whether or not an investor would be happy for you to fail at a $50,000 investment or a $5 million investment?

One of the Product Managers at BlueChilli, Alejandro Patterson, always says: “Hindsight is always 20:20”.

  • How do you use product management thinking in the outside world?


Thank you to everyone who came to the event in Sydney and those who joined us online. If you have any further questions about our programs or ways of working, please see our Programs page or get in touch at hello@bluechilli.com 

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