Attack with Numbers

by Paul Cothenet

“It doesn’t get easier. You just get faster”. Co-founder at MadKudu.

Read this first

CEO of the product?

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After publishing I love Product Management, I received this great question on Twitter:

When I transitioned to PM, I had no idea what I was doing (and neither did the people around me). So I started a frantic search to understand what the job was about. Good Product Manager, Bad Product Manager by Ben Horowitz was one of the first thing I read.

As I went trough it, I went through the following emotions in a very short amount of time:

  • “This job sounds awesome”
  • “This sounds pretty damn hard”
  • “There’s no way I can do all this” (to my defense, we didn’t even have marketing or PR at the time)

If you’re a junior PM, Horowitz’s description of the PM looks much broader than your job description. I’m...

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Exercise your product muscles

This post starts about soccer. But, don’t worry, in the end it’s about products. Apologies if you don’t care about soccer.

I’ve watched hundred of hours of soccer. I’ve probably seen hundred of players miss penalty kicks. Some of them from not too far away (I play goalkeeper). Yet, having seen all this doesn’t make me a better penalty shooter. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d shoot like this:

I know that I should aim between the post. Avoiding the goalkeeper is probably a good idea too. Yet, that’s not what matters if you want to consistently score your penalty kicks.
What matters is your foot placement, the angle of your body, the position of your foot next to the ball, the spot where your other foot hits the ball, the spin you give to the ball… A lot of stuff you have no idea about if you’ve only watched soccer on TV.

Watching other people miss penalties doesn’t make me a better...

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I love Product Management

Last week, I was asked by a student how I became a Product Manager and what was the right training to become one.

Tricky question. Because, as pointed out last week by Ellen Chisa in her great history of product management, there’s a lack of traditional resources on Product Management. Few great books, even fewer academic or training programs. Not much awareness among students.

This is a shame, because:

  • It’s the best job in the world (at least for me).
  • A lot of students and people starting their careers don’t even know this great job exists (I, for one, became a PM by accident)
  • A lot of time is spent reinventing the wheel.

Fortunately, people in the profession have stepped up to fill that void and write a cornucopia of great articles. It has helped me fantatiscally in my career I’ve been hoarding their best stuff like a squirrel for the last 4 years. So here’s my collection, loosely...

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The laws of shitty dashboards

Disclosure: I have been responsible for building shitty dashboards. I personally made most of the errors below. I heretofore apologize to my users and pledge not to do it again. Hopefully, these anti-patterns can help PMs, designers and engineers reduce a bit the amount of time wasted building and looking at shitty dashboards.

Law #1: Most software dashboards are shitty

When I say shitty, I’m not talking Google Image Search-bad (done vomiting yet?). I mean shitty in the sense of boring, poorly designed and devoid of any usefulness whatsoever.

Don’t believe me? Name 3 good software dashboards, right now

Found anything? Yeah, I guessed so. Yet, they’re everywhere. Any SaaS software you’re using probably has one, most likely as its home page.

You probably never look at it. It’s as if they weren’t there. (I call this dashboard-blindness). Thus, so, most software dashboards are shitty.

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...

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Transatlanticism

And the distance is quite simply much to far for me to row

I always enjoy when the shuffle mode plays emotional tricks on me. Like playing Transatlanticism while boarding the plane at Charles de Gaulle.

Ten years after its release, it’s still hard not to shiver at the sound of the final crescendo.

Five years after crossing the moat for the first time, it’s still impossible to board that plane without looking back.

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A social media diet for the social media reticent co-founder

My friend and co-founder @anselmelevan is not very active on Twitter. I think he doesn’t see the benefits of the platform and still thinks it’s something where people talk about what they’re eating. On my end, I’ve been on Twitter since 2008 and still think it is one of the best things ever. I also think that it can be a great customer discovery channel for our company, MadKudu.

So I’m trying a 30-day pass/fail experiment to see if I can get him:

  • to enjoy the platform
  • a decent following

I could have sent him an email, but I’m pretty sure there might be other cofounders (or VP Marketing) out there with a similar issue. So, I’ve decided to over-share this.

We’re starting at 19 tweets, 27 following and 33 followers. Let’s see where this can go. I’ll probably amend this as the experiment progress.

Base rules

Rule #1: Make your twitter feed interesting for you.

If your feed sucks, you’...

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The day Amazon read my mind

This mind reading story started in a banal way. I forgot my Kindle in the airplane seat pocket. Banal because I’m sure that happens all the time (it just hides in that stupid pocket) and because it was my third time.

But this time I did not get it back. Air Canada never found it. Good news: no one else seemed to find it either. I waited a couple days to see if anyone would buy a cornucopia of trashy fiction with my Kindle. Nope.

Anyway, I unlinked it from my account and was now in the market for a new Kindle. The last Paperwhite model was 9 months old. And there’s one lesson Steve Jobs told me. Never buy any Apple products 9 months after the previous launch. You’ll hate yourself in 3 months. Amazon’s previous releases had followed a similar pattern. And the latest rumors were hinting at a March release. So I decided to wait a bit.

6 months passed. March flew by. Nothing. (We’re...

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Thank you AgilOne

“I know that, right now, you have no idea what we’re doing. But I’m pretty sure you’ll figure it out”

The day was December 16, 2010. I was meeting Omer Artun for the first time, in a completely empty office in Los Gatos. The company was called Agilone (still with a lower case o). I was one day from graduating and three days from flying back to France for Christmas. I really wanted to stay in the US for my first job, but pretty much all my tentatives had failed so far. I had not yet convinced myself that this was it. So I still had my car, my apartment, a hundred or so CDs and no plans yet to get rid of them.

At this point, there were a lot of things I was not sure of:

  • I was not quite sure about this “Analytics Associate” job. It was a client service position in “predictive marketing”, while I had just spent the past 2 years studying how to keep a nuclear reactor from exploding.
  • I...

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For real feedback, use real data

This is the first (of an hopefully long series) of articles on my day hobby, Product Management. In this first installment, I discuss why, when working on a data product, you need real data to get real feedback

So, you’re building a data product. Could be a personalization engine, a business dashboard or a clustering algorithm (among some real-life examples). Something that deals with data and/or numbers. Big or small, doesn’t really matter.

You’ve made your initial assumptions, talked to users and validated your problem. You have an idea for a solution and need to validate it. Your next step is to build a prototype, show it to users and see if they’re willing to pay for it.

The catch with data product: if you want really actionable feedback from your potential users, you need to use their own data. You can get some bits of feedback from a fake/generic data prototype but most likely...

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How I lost my edge

“You don’t know what you really want”

I didn’t ever think I would be able put a date on it. I was secretly hoping it would never happen. But I have to come to the truth. I’ve lost my edge.

It starts with the realization that it is something that actually happens to people. As a kid, you realize that old people have not always been old. You make yourself the promise that you’ll never grow old. As a young adult, you stumble into a copy of Trout Mask Replica in your dad’s vinyl collection and realize he hasn’t been listening to FM radio their whole life. You make yourself the promise that, this time, you won’t let it happen to you.

And then, of course, it does happen to you.

You go from doing monthly compilations of your favorite B-sides to making a playlist out of Rolling Stone’s year-end list. 18 of your top 20 bands last year were already around 10 years ago. You only see movies...

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