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Putting the Product in Product-Led GTM

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Product-Led Go-To-Market is a hot topic in the world of software today, and doubly so when it comes to open source software. Ultimately, getting Product-Led-GTM right comes down to getting the fundamentals of your product right, which means getting your bottoms-up value proposition, user/buyer upsell pipeline, and commercial vs. open team culture balance absolutely right. This can get tricky in practice and has its own nuances.



A few months ago, I gave a presentation at the first inaugural Open Core Summit (OCS) on "Putting the Product in Product-Led GTM", a deep-dive around how to optimize your product strategy, architecture, and teams for commercial open-source software with a bottoms-up adoption model. These insights came from experiences in both my past operator life as a product leader at Docker, VMware, and AWS, as well as my current investor life at Mayfield working with product-led GTM companies like Rancher, Hashicorp, and DEV Community.

In the spirit of the open-so…

From Servant Leader to Servant Investor: Year One of a PM Turned VC

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There is a profound intimacy that early stage investors develop with founders, and it stems from long days and late nights spent in the gritty business of company building.

Some months into joining venture capital at Mayfield, I had coffee with a friend who asked me a question I’d heard more than once up to that point. The conversation went something like this:

”So, done any deals yet?”

“Nope. I’ve actually been spending a bunch of time helping our portfolio companies with whatever they need, like product strategy, marketing, pricing, and hiring.”

“Ah got it, so they can be a deal source or reference for new deals you’re trying to win?”

“Well, not really. I'm doing it to help our companies succeed."

I am now just over a year into my venture capital career, and I have now indeed done some deals. But I have come to realize that I am not here just to do deals. I am here to help build companies. I am here to be a servant investor.

Perhaps that terms sounds familiar. Any product ma…

The Four T’s: a PM-turned-VC’s framework for evaluating startups, part two

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This is part two of a series on The Four T's. Check out part one here.

Evaluating startups is part dark arts, part science. No two companies are the same, and certain traits just can’t be quantified effectively. But like any (former) product manager, I’ve put together my own framework that has helped me to assess startups in a structured and straightforward manner. I call this framework The Four T’s: Team, TAM, Tech, and Traction. Check out last week's article for more background. This week, we discuss Tech and Traction.
Tech

This is the area that most founders focus on, and on the surface it makes sense--people naturally want to talk about what they are building and how it will fundamentally disrupt the status quo. The truth is that most founders spend a bit too long on this section and not enough time on the team and problem context. if you don’t believe me, read this report from DocSend that analyzes which slides early stage investors tend to focus on. Spoiler alert: it’s th…

The Four T’s: a PM-turned-VC’s framework for evaluating startups, part one

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This is part one of a series on the Four T's. Check out part two here.

Evaluating startups is part dark arts, part science. No two companies are the same, and certain traits just can’t be quantified effectively. But like any (former) product manager, I’ve put together my own framework that has helped me to assess startups in a structured and straightforward manner. I call this framework The Four T’s: Team, TAM, Tech, and Traction. This week we'll start with Team and TAM.

Note that I'm not the first investor to use one or more of these T's, nor will I be the last. So why write this up and throw into the depths of the internets? I recently read and was inspired by Bloomberg Beta’s Criteria for Investing, which provides a concise yet comprehensive description of how that firm evaluates companies. Similarly, I’d rather entrepreneurs are able to put their best foot forward during the pitch and focus on what makes the company a great business and a good fit for partnering wi…

Be like water: The martial artist’s guide to empathy in enterprise product

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Many product-oriented people focus on “what should we build” when in reality the far more important question is “why should we build this?” The role of a product leader is to be the voice of the customer, which means finding pain points that are fundamentally hindering the customer’s progress, and that said customers are willing to pay you good money to solve. This is described well in the “Vitamins vs. Painkillers” discussion. There are severalgreatarticles on this, but TL;DR if you aren’t building a product that solves a vital issue for a customer, you aren’t likely to build a scalable business. Whether you are attempting to get your first customer or to get an investor to write a check, no one is going to part with their money until you can convince them you’ve found a pain point truly worth solving.

There is no better way to identify and build painkillers then by feeling your customers’ pains yourself. This is where empathy comes in. According to Wikipedia, empathy is “the capaci…

Welcome to The V Formation

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Welcome to The V Formation, a blog focused on enterprise product strategy and entrepreneurship.
Who am I? I'm Vivek Saraswat, a venture capital investor at Mayfield Fund.  Over the years I've had the privilege of working in product management for some great companies--startups and giants alike--in the enterprise infrastructure and developer tools space. For example, I launched and managed Docker's primary enterprise product, created VMware's Storage for Cloud-Native Apps initiative, and worked at AWS on snapshots for Elastic Block Store. In a previous life I was an early engineer at a venture-backed energy startup, before I traded in my clean room bunny-suit for the world of product specs and GitHub issues.

At Mayfield I invest in early stage enterprise startups, with a focus on next generation infrastructure and applications. I spend about half my time on new investments and market analysis, and the other half helping our portfolio companies on areas like product str…