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Here’s what you should know:

  • Product managers (PMs) and startup founders share common traits that are critical for success, such as problem-solving, customer focus, decision-making skills, negotiation and prioritization abilities, and a bias towards action.
  • Both PMs and founders are dedicated to solving specific user problems and are driven by a strong understanding of customer needs. This shared focus helps ensure that their product or business remains relevant and purposeful.
  • PMs and founders both possess a solid decision-making framework, enabling them to balance knowns, unknowns, learnings, and instinct in complex scenarios. This skill enhances agility and aids in efficient product development or business navigation.
  • PMs and founders both appreciate the value of speed to market and iterative improvements. They understand the importance of launching quickly, learning from feedback, iterating, and pivoting to achieve product-market fit.
  • If you’re a skilled PM looking for the next challenge, consider making the plunge into the role of a founder!

In the innovation-driven ecosystem of startups, the role of a founder is multidimensional, intense, and crucial to the venture’s success. From my personal experiences working with both product managers (PMs) and startup founders, I’ve noticed some striking similarities between these two roles, leading me to a conclusion: great product managers often make great startup founders. The characteristics that define a successful PM closely align with the qualities that a startup founder requires. Let’s dive into this observation more deeply. 

Problem Solvers at Heart

Great PMs are constantly focused on the problem to be solved. They understand that a product’s ultimate goal is to address a specific user need or solve a particular problem. This is why they always start with the user in mind, researching, questioning, and digging deep into the real challenges their product needs to address. 

Similarly, successful startup founders always approach their business with a problem-solving mentality. They view their venture as a solution to a problem in the market or society. This focus keeps their business relevant, provides it with a purpose, and offers a clear direction in which to innovate and grow. 

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Commitment to the Customer

Another trait shared between great PMs and startup founders is their dedication to customer feedback. PMs recognize the importance of interacting with their customers, understanding their needs, experiences, and even their language. This interaction informs the product roadmap, making it more user-centric and ensuring the product delivers value to its users.

Startup founders, likewise, need to understand their customer base intimately. This knowledge is critical to their success as it shapes their business model, guides their marketing strategy, and influences their product or service offerings. 

Decision Making Muscle Memory

Great PMs have developed an uncanny ability to make informed decisions that balance knowns, unknowns, learnings, and gut instinct. This ability stems from their experience with complex scenarios, timelines, resources, and multiple stakeholder viewpoints. This decision-making framework is a crucial tool that enhances agility and keeps the product development process efficient and effective.

This ability is a godsend for startup founders as well. Navigating the uncertainty of the startup world requires quick, informed decision-making skills. Startup founders must balance their vision with current market realities, pivoting as necessary while remaining agile and adaptable. Also, they have to be able to, at times, trust their gut. 

Negotiators and Prioritization Experts

Great PMs are also negotiators and prioritization experts. Throughout their career, they’ve had to analyze a myriad of features, requirements, and tasks, prioritizing the ones that would deliver the most value. This ability comes with the territory of managing various stakeholders, ensuring that everyone’s needs are addressed, and managing expectations realistically.

This skill set directly translates into the startup world. Founders must constantly prioritize their resources, time, and effort, focusing on what will deliver the most significant impact for their business. The art of negotiation becomes indispensable when dealing with investors, partners, and customers.

Bias Towards Action

Finally, great PMs understand that a good product today is better than a great product a year from now. They appreciate the value of speed to market and iterative improvements based on customer feedback. This approach enables them to continually refine their product. 

For startup founders, the same principle applies. The ability to launch, learn, iterate, and pivot is an invaluable skill set. It allows founders to remain competitive, meet their customer needs quickly, and iterate based on real-world feedback, ultimately helping them achieve a solid product-market fit.


In conclusion, the very skills and mindset that make a PM successful are the same ones that can make a startup founder successful. Whether it’s focusing on problem-solving, customer interaction, informed decision-making, negotiation, prioritization, or speed to market.

If you are an experienced PM who is ready to take on the challenge of becoming a Founder, please pitch Mark II Ventures your idea. We would love the opportunity to potentially work with you.

Not yet had the “Aha moment” for the next great product? No problem!  Mark II has a backlog of ideas that we’re actively looking for someone to co-found with us.  Interested in learning more? Reach out, and we’ll tell you more about what it looks like to co-found a startup with us. No pressure, no obligation.

Reach out and say hi using the “Learn More” button below!