On September 28, Nubank’s headquarters hosted the São Paulo Product Community Meetup, an initiative of the Product LatAm Network, which has more than 1,000 members spread across Latin America and is one of the largest communities of Product Managers in the region.
The meeting brought together members of the product team from various companies to discuss relevant topics to the current product market, a brief Q&A session, and of course, generate a lot of connections in an in-person event.
At Nubank, product development is taken very seriously. For us, it’s not enough to meet consumers’ needs: we want to solve their problems in a way that makes them fall in love with what we offer. To find out about the main topics discussed at the event, read on!
The event was opened by Eduardo Moore, Product Director at Clara, a Latin American B2B fintech focused on corporate financial control. After his opening speech, which focused on the need to develop the product community in the region, the participants in the evening’s main event took to the stage.
Paula Andrea Hurtado, Product Lead at Bitso, the first crypto-focused fintech to become a unicorn in Latin America, was the mediator of the conversation. Besides her, the speakers were Gabriel Alves, Product Vice President also at Bitso, and Pedro Axelrud, Nubank’s Product Director.
The dynamics of Product Development at different company stages
Companies at different maturity stages require different product development approaches. Pedro, with experience from Nubank’s early product team days, succinctly divides these phases based on Product Market Fit (PMF). In essence, PMF is the validation that a product effectively addresses the problem it’s designed for. Pedro sees company product development as split into two phases: pre-PMF and post-PMF.
Pre-Product Market Fit (Pre-PMF):
Before reaching PMF, the mission is clear: to find it, by looking at the customers and their pains, as we iterate all this within the product. During this stage, the product team is intensely geared towards:
- Experimentation: As Pedro quotes, “A Product team before the PMF is much more oriented towards experimentation”. The focus is on testing, prototyping, and understanding customer needs.
- Validation: The team is dedicated to building inputs before finalizing the product.
Post-Product Market Fit (Post-PMF):
Once a company hits PMF, the strategy shifts. The product’s value is now proven, making it imperative for the company to scale swiftly. For the product team, this phase requires:
- Growth: With the product value now established, it’s time to “put the pedal to the metal.”
- Efficiency: According to Pedro, “post-PMF, the team needs to know the metrics in detail and seek efficiency”.
Furthermore, it’s essential for Product Managers (PMs) to fluidly adapt between these phases. A proficient PM can seamlessly transition from the experimental mindset of the pre-PMF stage to the growth-oriented focus of the post-PMF phase.
Strategies and cautions for scaling Post-Product Market Fit (PMF)
Achieving Product Market Fit is a significant milestone for companies, but what follows—scaling efficiently and effectively—is equally critical. The insights shared during the event emphasized both a proactive approach to scaling and the common pitfalls to avoid.
Analyzing the funnel for efficient scaling
Pedro stresses the importance of analyzing the customer journey funnel, but with a twist: instead of the traditional front-to-back view, he suggests starting from the end and working your way back. This approach allows businesses to identify where they might be losing customers, ensuring they don’t waste resources attracting a vast audience that doesn’t stay engaged till the end.
Moreover, as teams grow and scale, Pedro emphasizes the importance of each team having a comprehensive understanding of processes. This ensures that everyone takes responsibility for both their successes and setbacks, avoiding the detrimental “push-pull effect”.
Autonomous teams foster speed
A significant factor in scaling efficiently is optimizing team structures. Reducing dependencies between teams by fostering more autonomy ensures that the product development process remains agile. Teams that can operate independently without constant back-and-forths are likely to be more nimble and reactive.
Pitfalls to avoid in scaling
Gabriel shed light on the common mistakes companies make when scaling post-PMF. Rapidly growing teams without clear objectives and metrics can drastically impede the product development process. There is an importance of understanding both the journey and the problem to be solved.
“You need to have not only the journey well defined, but also the problem”.
Additionally, he pinpointed a lack of prioritization as a significant challenge. Not knowing which demands to address can, in his view, potentially jeopardize the hard-earned PMF.
While scaling post-PMF is essential for growth, it requires a strategic approach. Businesses need to meticulously analyze their funnels, empower their teams, and be wary of the common pitfalls that can hinder their progress.
The evolving investor expectations in Latin America’s startup ecosystem
The startup landscape in Latin America has undergone significant changes, particularly in the relationship between investors and startups.
The era of easily securing capital is fading. Gabriel reflected on the past by mentioning that startups, even those without a clear Product Market Fit, found it easier to raise funds half a decade ago. However, the narrative has shifted. Today’s investors demand tangible results and concrete numbers.
Fearing a reduction in valuation, startups are now more cautious. They aim to resolve challenges internally, without seeking additional financial rounds. This new approach directly impacts the roles and responsibilities of Product teams.
No longer can Product teams solely focus on customer satisfaction metrics. They are now tasked with a broader spectrum of responsibilities, encompassing profitability metrics and a deep understanding of the business model. Pedro emphasized this transformation, underscoring that today’s Product Manager must be attuned to the intricate dynamics of the business.
“The Product Manager needs to understand the costs involved, the revenue sources, the losses, and the opportunities for growth”.
Previously, a singular focus on the product and a primary metric sufficed. Now, there’s a demand for a more holistic approach. As Latin America’s startup environment matures, both startups and their teams are tasked with navigating evolving investor expectations. The demand for results underscores the need for a more comprehensive understanding of the business and its metrics, ensuring long-term sustainability and growth.
Balancing instinct and data in decision-making
The conversation delved into the crucial role of data in informing decisions, especially within a product team.
The necessity of data skills
Gabriel highlighted the importance of embedding data expertise within teams. Having data-savvy members can equip Product Managers (PMs) to make better-informed decisions.
The potential pitfalls of an over-reliance on data
While data-driven decision-making is vital, an overemphasis can sometimes be counterproductive. Having too many data specialists can blur lines of responsibility and can lead to disagreements on decisions. Notably, data doesn’t always point to a clear or correct choice, implying the importance of intuition and experience alongside data.
The challenges faced by smaller companies
In smaller organizational settings, dedicated data personnel within every squad may not be feasible. This often requires the PM to play a more active role in gathering and analyzing data. However, it’s crucial to remember that decision-making doesn’t always demand exhaustive data. Overburdening decisions with a need for comprehensive data can stall progress and potentially hinder achieving Product Market Fit.
The perils of skipping data
If making a data informed decision takes too much time, it’s important to make sure that the company has the adequate infrastructure to allow this information to be accessed in a more agile way.
Otherwise, if it takes too long and the infrastructure isn’t good, PMs might be tempted to bypass the data in subsequent decisions in order to speed them up.
Dynamics of autonomy in Product Management
The conversation shifted to exploring the nuances of autonomy within product teams, with both Gabriel and Pedro providing unique perspectives on the subject:
Autonomy’s definition varies
Autonomy doesn’t have a universal definition; its interpretation varies among team members. As Gabriel pointed out, for some, autonomy could mean charting out and following a roadmap, while for others, it might simply translate to executing daily tasks without frequent check-ins.
The balance between autonomy and accountability
Pedro emphasized that a well-functioning team should be well-aware of its optimization goals and pertinent metrics. Such a team should ideally enjoy a significant degree of autonomy, around 90%, to accomplish its objectives. However, he also noted the practicality of the corporate world, asserting that “there is no such thing as 100% autonomy”. No matter how autonomous a team is, there’s always a need to align strategies with broader organizational goals and to ensure stakeholders are onboard.
Autonomy relies on performance
The degree of autonomy a team enjoys can often be a reflection of its performance. When teams consistently deliver expected outcomes, they’re likely to be granted greater autonomy. Gabriel supported this viewpoint, stating that a team’s autonomy often correlates with its results.
“If the team delivers what is expected, it will naturally have more autonomy”.
Balancing autonomy in growing organizations
As organizations expand, the dynamics of autonomy tend to shift. Larger entities often come with more intricate processes and hierarchical structures, posing challenges to absolute autonomy to ensure better alignment, something that’s natural in the ever-evolving startup landscape. However, both speakers agreed that even within such constraints, creating models that allow for significant autonomy is achievable.
Navigating the complexities of international expansion
On the topic of international growth, Pedro articulated that achieving equilibrium is crucial. While acknowledging the unique priorities of different countries, he stressed the imperative to preserve the company’s core culture and product essence, adapting only as required by local realities. The challenge lies not just in localization but also in integrating diverse teams: “Even if teams from different countries are working on different projects, it’s important to build integration between them”.
In essence, the discussions revolved around the balance – the balance between maintaining one’s composure in chaotic settings and achieving harmonization in diverse international landscapes.
The São Paulo Product Community Meetup at Nubank’s headquarters was more than just an assembly of Latin America’s leading product professionals; it was an encapsulation of the ever-evolving landscape of product management in the region.
Pedro and Gabriel’s insights serve as a testament to the complexity and reward inherent in the world of product management. As Latin America’s startup ecosystem continues to grow, the role of Product Managers will undeniably be central to shaping its trajectory.
Whether you’re a budding Product Manager or an established professional in the field, there’s an undeniable takeaway from the meetup: embrace challenges, stay agile, and always be driven by the genuine desire to add value to customers.