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From Seed to Scale: Product Strategy in Startup Evolution
Strategy lessons and insights from the trenches, with Lily Smith
Startup challenges change as they grow. The focus and needs of the product strategy also change, as the company moves through funding rounds and product maturity stages.
What are the critical factors leaders should consider at each stage? How does collaboration among different areas evolve? What’s the impact of funding rounds on focus areas?
In this episode of 100 Product Strategies, we spoke with Lily Smith, CPO at BBC Maestro and co-host of the Product Experience podcast, who has been taking product leadership roles at startups at different stages.
We discussed the strategic implications of technical scalability, user experience improvement, and business expansion. Lily compared how challenges evolve from pre-market-fit stages to the scale-up period.
As a final note, these learnings have implications for “intrapreneurs,” new products growing and maturing inside existing organizations.
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My takeaways from this episode
As a new joiner to Bower Collective, Lily first started by understanding the users and the market. While this sounds typical, there was an interesting take: look at other types of products that might have similar models, in this case, other e-commerce with subscription-based goods.
There was a clear trigger for needing a strategy: they had a clear vision and mission, and very concrete things to do in the short term, but they lacked a mid-term strategy to align future efforts.
Typically, startups will kick off their products, taking tech debt in favor of speed. Once they find market fit, they must put the tech effort into their strategies to rebuild the parts required for growth and scale. At this stage, product leaders must ensure they incorporate and align this in their plans.
Working on the digital platform that sells the physical products the company builds, a close alignment between the two areas is critical to ensure a unified experience for the customer.
In scale-up contexts like Maestro, everyone needs to be aligned on what strategy is and how to collaborate across different departments. It’s like building the strategy simultaneously with the process of strategizing.
Lily's final thoughts were on the value of strategy for team motivation. We tend to focus on alignment and good decisions, but there is great value in how a good strategy impacts team engagement, motivation, and speed!
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