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Paypal Mafia and Evolution of Techno Product Management

Art of Product Management

This is the first post of a 4-Part series that will take you on a journey of Successful Digital Product Development.

A beautifully designed product with cutting-edge tech is of no use to anyone if it ends up getting dumped in some dark corner of digital storage.

The first picture you get when you hear the term ‘PayPal Mafia’ for the first time is that of the Sopranos or even Marlon Brando stroking his cat. But hopefully, they are not. They are not vicious as the title suggests.

The ‘PayPal Mafia’, we are referring to here, is a group of former PayPal employees and founders who have since founded and invested in a lot more technology companies, like Tesla, Inc., LinkedIn, Palantir Technologies, SpaceX, Affirm, Slide, Kiva, YouTube, Yelp, and Yammer. 

The members of the so-called PayPal mafia went on to deploy intense consumer orientation and product management processes that they developed and / or learnt in their Paypal journey to solve challenges in various other domains. Their future success also highlighted the centrality of Product Management in building great tech products. 

So… What is Techno Product Management?

Product Management (in context of tech products) is the role that takes overall ownership of defining, building, and scaling a tech product.

Commercial success of the product is the final benchmark by which the quality of a Product Manager is measured.  A beautifully designed product with cutting-edge tech is of no use to anyone if it ends up being dumped in some dark corner of digital storage.

A technology Product Manager deals with 3 key stakeholders –

  1. Business / Sales team
  2. Technology team
  3. UI / UX design team

Business oriented folks and their engineering counterparts usually have different mindsets, and hence have different communication styles.

Sales people and senior management leaders live in a world of ambiguity where they deal with uncertain outcomes while trying to achieve their business goals. So they often tend to talk in broad strokes about their expectations from technology.

Engineers, on the other hand, live in the world of clean logic. Just like each line of code and each mathematical equation has a definite predictable output, each verbal or written communication is also expected to be crystal clear in its scope and definition. Ambiguity is anathema to an engineer. 

A good Techno-Product Manager is the bridge between these diametrically opposite worlds – (s)he has a fundamental business orientation, at the same time, also has (at least) the basic knowledge of what technology can do to solve their respective business challenges. A CPO’s (Chief Product Officer) most important role is to absorb the ambiguity of business expectations and transform that into the certainty of Product Development.

Mediocrity is no longer an option in the digital universe…

People make snap judgments. It takes only 1/10th of a second to form a first impression about a person. Websites and digital products are no different. A few years ago, Google confirmed the 50 mili-second number in their own research. 

15 Seconds – that’s the average time spent on a new website or a new digital product. And that’s how long you have to capture someone’s attention. If you haven’t generated interest in 15 seconds then you probably aren’t going to. Users are inundated with choice and are accustomed to the great product experience that Google, FB, and Apple provides. 

Even in B2B products, gone are the days when the management could thrust user ‘un’friendly enterprise tools down the throats of unwilling employees. User adoption by millennial employees requires a willing uptake by them, giving rise to a wave of ‘Prosumerization’ in enterprise products.

As a result, mediocrity is no longer an option in building tech products.

Emergence of Specialist Tech Product Development firms

There is an art and a science behind great Product Management. The art constitutes the human element of the Product Manager’s skills and his/her interactions with the key stakeholders. The science of Product Management constitutes the processes involved in the Discovery, Design, Development, and Deployment stages of the Product journey. 

A high functioning Techno Product Management team evolves over years of working together across multiple product life cycles. Finding, building and nurturing the right techno Product Management team takes a significant amount of time and money (more on this in our next article – ‘The Art of Product Management – the Human Element’).  

Specialist Digital Product firms fill this gap.

When you work with a specialist techno Product partner, you get a full package team of a Chief Product Officer (CPO), a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and a Chief Design Officer (CDO) who have honed their skills by working on full life cycles of multiple digital products. With years of working together, they have the inter-personal respect and understanding of each other to act as high functioning teams from the very start.

A full-stack digital products firm also has in-house specialist team members for backend coding, front-end development, database design and tech support for rapid execution of the product vision.

In our next 3 articles, we go deeper into –

Rantej Singh
Rantej Singh
Rantej Singh is the founder of eligere.ai. Rantej has 20 years of experience working with MNCs like Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Thomson Reuters and ICICI Bank in Trade Finance, Product and Innovation roles. Rantej is a serial entrepreneur with deep understanding of the digital product lifecycle ecosystem. Rantej is a co-author of a finance book and a triple medal winner at US Open Karate Championship. Rantej has a Bachelor of Technology degree and is an MBA from IMD - Switzerland.