We recently sat down with NextView Ventures Partner & fmr Blue Apron Product Head, Melody Koh, to discuss scaling a product organization, which she’s seen as the first PM at Blue Apron and now as a venture capital partner. It’s especially a great talk for startups, both from a growth and venture capital perspective.
Melody Koh and Samantha Scott got into scaling a product organization from Melody’s experience with Blue Apron and also shared her advice for startups now that she’s in the world of venture capital. You can listen to her full episode of Product Talk above or check out the highlights below.
On when it’s time for a startup to bring in a product manager
There are key milestones you’ll hit when scaling a product organization.
“If you feel like as a CEO, you no longer have like a clear and cohesive sense of how things are getting prioritized and what is getting shipped and why things are getting shipped, then that’s the time you need a product team’s help.”
On what a PM should consider when joining a startup
Taking a risk on an early-stage startup is worth it if it checks all these boxes for you.
“Identify with the problem the company is solving. Of course, use your business judgment of like, do I think this is a good business? Right? Do I think this has the potential to break out? Can it be successful?
I do think that if you were to take a first product hire type job, it is more beneficial to have some experience. You need to know a little bit of product one on one. You can’t be like, ‘alright, how do I write a spec?’ Where you show up and day one, you show up every day while you’re like, ‘Okay, let’s go. You take three projects and you ship them.’
Then you help figure out, how do we as an organization work with the product team? And how does the product team work with the rest of the organization? So, you need to have a little bit of institutional contacts with product management as a craft and as a function to be able to help guide that conversation for the rest of the organization.”
On the product leaders that stand out when scaling a product organization
This is an interesting note from Melody, both as someone who’s seen a product organization like Blue Apron scale and now in seeing the types of product leaders who are investible.
“I look for people that can, as a PM, go at it with the VP of Marketing and [they] don’t have to drag me into the room and are able to manage that conversation and come out smiley-faced and holding hands.”
On what makes a great PM
Melody has an awesome take on what makes a great product leader.
“My responsibility as a manager is, if you think about a Venn diagram, and there are two circles, one is what does a company need of you? The other circle is what do you want to get out of this job, like experience, learnings, etc. My responsibility is to try to build your scope and help you achieve as much of an overlap in the Venn diagram circle as possible.”
About the speaker
Melody Koh is a partner at NextView Ventures - an NYC-based firm that focuses on investing in early-stage tech companies who are building solutions for the everyday economy. Prior to joining NextView Ventures, she led the product team at Blue Apron and also worked on the product team at Fab.com. In addition, Melody founded WineMe/FirstCrush and also worked for Evercore & Time Warner Investments. Melody holds an MBA from Harvard University and currently lives in New York City.
About the host
Samantha Scott has carved an active history in product management, starting with NexJ Systems and moving from AppNexus to Etsy. Samantha is currently pursuing an MBA at Harvard Business School to further enhance her business acumen. Prior to that, she was the Director of Product Management at Capsule, a healthcare technology that provides clinical surveillance and medical device integration. Her career is backed by a Bachelor of Applied Science in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo. Before delving into products and product management, Samantha served as Toronto Hydro’s Compliance and Quality Analyst and TD’s Business Analyst.