📕 The History of Product Management
+ Truebill (FinTech), OpenSea (web3) & Top 10 Twitter Follows (creation)
Have you ever told a relative what you do, only to receive a puzzled look? Product management, as a field, is new. Our parent’s generation didn’t even consider it. Your average non-techie has no idea what it is even about.
How did Product Management as a job come to be? Has it always been around, but in different forms? As product managers, it would be great to understand the history of our profession. Then, we could help answer these questions we commonly get at holiday dinner tables with relatives.
Yet, when I asked my Product Management friends about it a few years ago, no one had a clue. There is shockingly little known broadly about how Product Management came to be.
This set off my years-long obsession with the history of the profession. I thought it would be easy to find a coherent history. But, everything I have read has several obvious flaws and gaps. It seems like writers are rewriting the same bad base article over and over.
The apocryphal story is that it starts with, “brand men,” at Procter & Gamble. Neil McElroy, who never worked as a PM, is called the father of the profession. Excuse me, what?
Are these articles written by PMs or content people? Brand men are not PMs. Plus, obviously PM-type people in consumer goods companies existed in companies hundreds of years before. So, that is just a horrible starting place that makes no sense.
Toyota is also always thrown in there. Sure, the Toyota Product System and Kanban are interesting. But they have nothing to do with PM.
Instead of rewriting the same garbage about consumer goods brand men, I have been reading through troves of different books and old articles to figure out the actual phases of PM’s progression. Now, I think I am about ready to share an interpretation.
Strap in as we explore, “Product Management: A Brief History.” I promise my interpretation of the phases of PM’s history is quite different from what has been written before. Most people have not even broken out the last 5 phases I do, lumping them into one.
Why Did Rocket Companies Acquire Truebill?
1.275 billion dollars, all cash. When news hit two weeks ago that the lending company owned by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was buying the personal finance app Truebill, heads turned.
It was an eye-popping sum for a company that just 6 months earlier raised a series D at a $500M valuation. Did Truebill deserve the valuation? What did Rocket see in them?
The surface-level analysis was that the two businesses have nothing to do with each other. Rocket is a lender. Truebill is an app to analyze your bills.
But, there is much more to the story. Rocket Companies has gone public twice. The man behind it, Dan Gilbert, is a hero to two midwestern cities: Cleveland and Detroit. Truebill was founded by three brothers in a basement in Maryland.
And the companies have the potential to help each other. Rocket has a low valuation multiple. Truebill could be just what it needs to compete in the coming fintech SuperApp wars.
Researching these companies was amongst the most fun I have had. Plus, Truebill is just a great app you want to learn more about. So, join me as we explore:
The Truebill App
The Purchase Price
How is OpenSea worth $13B?
Six months ago, OpenSea raised at a $1.5B valuation. Today, it just raised at a $13.3B valuation.
NFTs are a massive business. Here is OpenSea’s yearly transaction volume. It takes 2.5% of that volume, generating the revenue in the pictured line chart.
We’re only a few days into 2022, but OpenSea did $900 million in its first 4 days. That puts them on pace for over $80B in transaction volume in 2022.
This is a massive business. OpenSea managed to have the same Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) as Etsy in 2021.
But, in comparison to Etsy, OpenSea boasts a 97% market share 🤯
That is insane market share. The big tech players are not that dominant:
▫️ Google holds a 92% market share in search
▫️ Facebook and its associated properties boast more than 3x the active users as its next competitor
▫️ Amazon’s domestic e-commerce dominance is pegged at 50%
The easy thing to do is write off NFTs as a ponzi scheme.
The smart thing to do is double click on what these are and the innovation they enable. “Dumb money” does not generate businesses like OpenSea’s.
NFTs are units of data that cannot be changed. People buy them for status, scarcity, and belonging. NFTs grant clout, showcase your personality, and give you access to private groups.
The communities around them are speedrunning experiments in web3 to figure out the best use cases for blockchain.
Protocols like ERC-721, created by CryptoKitties in 2017, have changed the world forever. It would probably make sense to start paying attention.
Projects like Axie Infinity, Crypto Punks, NBA Top Shot, and Bored Ape Yacht Club are set to change the world. And they’re all bought and sold on Opensea. It’s an amazing business.
The product team has continuously innovated, with permission listing, asset breadth, and robust filtering. Now, they are seeing the fruits of their labor.
In a few years, Devin Finzer will be taking the company public at a triple-digit billion dollar valuation.
Product Twitter is one of the most underrated resources to improving your PM career. 15 of my favorite Product Ladies on Twitter:
@jackiebo: The woman who has gotten millions into product.
Author of Cracking the PM Interview and previously head of product at Asana. Constantly posting insights on how to be a better PM.
@tcordrey: Product leader at Instagram.
Constantly dissecting the state and future of PM. Loved her thread on PM as a discipline become more confusing than simpler.
@Jenyangwong: Already crushing it after 2 months on Twitter.
Product lead at Kyte. The magic of her tweets on PM will melt your brain. PM is all about bets and success.
@clairevo: Transparency, calling out bullshit, and consistent content. She inspires me as a parent, too.
CPO at Color. I feel her tweets on product leader cliches so hard. That will be my work day today.
@hpdailyrant: Discovery and UX expert helping PMs get smart on working with their colleagues.
Consistent high quality for years. Now at Pluralsight. Experience is about frames of reference!
@dreasaez: Awesome thought leadership on the intersection of product, marketing, and design - with experience in all areas.
Product marketer at Airfocus. Loved her recent take on the product subreddit. Interns shouldn't be writing roadmaps.
@lissijean: Consistently great takes on academic and tech issues of our time.
Professor at HBS. Created CPO Accelerator. Love her tweet on product strategy following from company strategy.
@thelindazhang: Mind-blowing tweets about product.
Her tweet from last YEAR is still bouncing around in my brain. Zestimate let people be nosy. Unlocking emotions is magic.
@ckells19: Tweets with context and insight, ramping up on twitter really well.
Former Chief Product Officer at Bloom Diagnostics. The example of a community builder.
@patriciamou_: Counter-intuitive tweets that help you live a better life as a product person.
Sr PM at Calm. Loved her tweet on career ladders. Most promotions already undervalue you.
@NeelChaks: Awesome podcaster, product person, and Twitter PM member.
PM at Palo Alto Networks. Loved her pushing us that most startups do not have too many PMs.
@impostorphyllis: A future CPO. Young PM, but not young on wisdom. Amazing insights daily.
PM at Redfin. Loved her tweet on being afraid to post. Just do it!
@stephanie_leue: One of the most consistent writers who is ramping up and hitting a huge inflection point of exponential growth.
Former PM at PayPal & Contentful, now consulting. I love her reality check on what being head of product is. Can confirm it doesn't mean you get to make all the decisions.
@AASipos: the type of product person who loves data and understands engineers
PM at Oda, Ex-Skyscanner. Loved her recent tweet on ad-hoc SQL queries. Do them.
@lauraklein: The User and UX perspective double-clicked into for PMs.
Consistent writer, including UX for Lean Startups & Build Better Products. I loved her recent post, You aren't your user.