Building v1 of a Product
Parul Goel is a people-centric product leader with expertise in marketplaces and payments. She enjoys the challenge of building products that can support complex capabilities and yet exemplify simplicity to their customers. A builder and leader of high functioning teams, she enables people to cut out the noise, and focus on what really matters. Parul is one of the leaders of Product Excellence Programs at PayPal, and an active member of the Women in Product community.
She recently spoke at a Product That Count hosted webinar and discussed how to go about building v1 of a product. She shared an example from PayPal and some of the wisdom they gathered along the way.
In her presentation, Parul Goel shared her experience building v1 of a product from scratch at PayPal. She shared several lessons that she learned and three challenges they faced. You can view the full recording of the webinar above. Otherwise, the highlights of the presentation are detailed below:
The first challenge of building v1 of a product is knowing where to start
Starting at the beginning and building v1 of a product can have its advantages, but it’s can also be intimidating.
“When you’re building something from scratch, you can have a lot more influence. But the problem was for me that was also very daunting. It was also very scary. And confusing. Imagine writing the first chapter of your epic novel, right? Who are your characters? What era? Is it set it set? And what is the genre that you are writing about?
All of the decisions that you make there are going to impact your journey. So as exciting as it was, it was also a little scary because we knew that these decisions are important, they are going to have a big impact on the direction of our product.”
The second challenge was validating their roadmap
This was an important challenge for PayPal to overcome, especially when you read ahead to challenge #3.
“Our approach was really to validate our roadmap through our pipeline. What we had to get comfortable with was selling ahead of the curve, which basically meant our sales team would be selling our product, including the features and capabilities we hadn’t built yet.”
The third challenge they faced at PayPal was getting adoption from the sales team
Internal communication can be as important as what you tell your customers when building v1 of a product and preparing for its launch.
“Our sales team was new to this product because this product itself was new. And by that time the sales team had figured out, they could gather and sell to marketplaces. They kind of knew, okay, it wasn’t perfect, but it worked. So they were used to selling something, and now they had to go out and sell this new product that they didn’t really know. They didn’t really have any reason to have confidence in it. In fact, what we were telling them was not to even sell the product but sell them roadmap with the confidence that we will deliver it by the time you have a partner, we would have built it.
It took some time for us to bring our sales team on board. And this was among my few roles that I had as a B2B enterprise Product Manager. I realized that I could build the best product out there, but my sales team is important and, if they don’t believe in the product, if they don’t believe in the team, they’re not going to sell it.”
One piece of advice for Product Managers building v1 of a product
Sometimes the first step is the hardest, but it’s one you just have to take.
“There are just so many decisions to be made. And they seem like they’re very critical life-changing decisions. So start somewhere. Don’t try to boil the ocean. Narrow your scope. Decide what problem you want to solve for, who do you want to solve for. Hopefully, pick something that aligns with your strength and start there.”