Interview with Hubert Palán
This post originally appeared on blog.up.co
Hubert is the founder and CEO of productboard, Inc., an all-in-one product management platform that helps product leaders understand what users need, decide what to put next on their roadmap, and align their whole product team. productboard, headquartered in San Francisco, California, is proudly backed by Index, Credo, Reflex, and Rockaway. productboard made its public debut at the coveted TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Battlefield in San Francisco in 2016. Prior to productboard, Hubert was the Vice President of Product Management at GoodData. He lives with his wife Jenna and their baby boy Hubert V. in Oakland, CA.
Hello Hubert, thanks for finding some spare time for us. So let's dive in. You must be super proud of your team according to your last successful launch of the new version on producthunt. Was there anything which surprised you in terms of reaching the voters? What worked for you besides the fact that productboard is the right product to market there.
We are very proud indeed! Product Hunt is a highly respected community and a great place to let the world know about your new product, especially if your product targets digital product makers. Our new version of productboard won the product of the day on November 15th and placed 4th in the ranking of products of the whole week. We ended only behind Mozilla’s new Firefox browser and Tesla's electric Semi and Roadster. Feels pretty cool to be up there with such products, if you ask me 😀. As of today, we are amongst top 400 products of all times, and we are still climbing up.
It was surprising to learn about the details of the whole Product Hunt ecosystem. We definitely learned that preparation pays off, and that a successful launch is not a coincidence. To make the launch a success, we worked very hard not just on the product itself, but also on having great marketing assets, and making sure we stay very focused on our message in all our communication. We also planned carefully our outreach to the Product Hunt community and to our Customer base. We are proud to have very passionate fans and we saw the launch as an opportunity to thank them for their continuous support. And they heard us and came out and voted for us, it was awesome!
(productboard being #4 product of the week on producthunt)
Another very positive surprise was to see our whole team come together and work relentlessly on making the launch a success. It is rare and inspiring to be on a team of people with complementary skills, who share common purpose, clearly defined set of goals, and approach for which they held ourselves mutually accountable. We managed to create such unique experience and I am thankful for it.
How did family influence your project management approach? Would you say you are more efficient now? What did you change?
Our baby boy is turning two in one week, productboard is little over three. They are both my babies or startups if you will 😀 Starting a family while trying to get your company off the ground is hard. Both need a lot of energy and attention and it is a constant battle of priorities. The good thing is that it forces you to spend your time really only on the most important things. You get better at time management, delegation, communication, because if you want to achieve your goals, there is no other way. Would I wish there were more hours in a day? Of course, but for now I am grateful I have been able to keep both of my babies healthy and growing! Any prioritization aside, I wouldn't be able to succeed without the support of my amazing wife Jenna.
You are one of the kind that experienced to be judge at startupweekend in 2012 and 2017. Were there any differences you noticed? And from the judging perspective what do you appreciate the most during the pitches?
Yes, I was lucky to have the opportunity to judge two of the startup weekends. And I definitely see differences. Overall the quality of the pitches has improved. The teams did a better job with structuring their pitches, making them more entertaining and interactive. You, the organizers, managed to bring together a great group of mentors who coached and helped the teams. Overall the whole startup ecosystem has matured significantly in the past five years. We all have a better knowledge of what makes a pitch great, how to structure it, and how to present it. Most importantly I feel like there is more clarity on where to channel the team's’ energy in the couple days preceding the pitch. I think the mentors really helped here.
Being a judge is always very motivating and inspiring because the energy of the teams just hits and powers you for days. That is the one thing that hasn’t changed, the teams were as excited five years ago as they are now. They put a great deal of care into their work and it shows. That is why I didn’t hesitate to be a judge again, and I hope I will have the opportunity to come back in the future.
I have to ask this one. Why would you recommend anyone to attend startupweekend?
Absolutely. It doesn't matter whether you want to found a startup yourself, whether you want to join an existing startup team, or whether you just want to get a taste of what it is like to start working on something new. Startupweekend is a great way to learn new skills. The format, the focused couple days with a clear deadline, forces all participants to come together, align their efforts and reconcile their differences. It creates an environment where people get to know each other much more than they would otherwise, and that to me is one of the most valuable parts of the whole experience. The foundation of any startup is a small group of very passionate people working against all odds on something they strongly believe in. If you want to have a successful startup one day, start building relationships with people who could be on your team now. I know what I am talking about, I met Daniel Hejl, my co-founder, and CTO at that startupweekend five years ago. We wouldn’t be talking about productboard's Product Hunt success today if it wasn’t for that startupweekend in 2012!
Why do you think that productboard is successful? What are the ingredients which make company successful?
There are many things that contribute to a company's success. I just mentioned how critical it is to have a team of people dedicated to a common vision. That is key.
The team then has to deliver to the market a truly excellent product. To be able to do that in the least risky and the most predictable way, the team has to 1. gain a deep understanding of the needs of the customers, 2. form a focused product strategy on how to tackle those needs, and 3. align around a clear product roadmap.
The deep customer insights bring you confidence that you are solving an important problem, focused product strategy gives clarity to your prioritization, and roadmap alignment assures that you channel curiosity and creativity of everyone on your team in the right direction.
This is the recipe for success of every product team and we have been following it at productboard. We’ve spent the first year doing a thorough market research and validating problems and solution ideas, thanks to which we gained a very deep understanding of needs of our target customers. We have a very clear vision and go-to-market strategy and we prioritize our efforts against specific goals and objectives in 6-week periods to make sure we work on the most important thing at any given point in time. And we have a shared roadmap that guides the team. We have an unfair advantage though, we have the best tool that helps us with all three of the areas, it is called productboard 😀