About Rian Van Der Merwe


  For those of you do not know Ryan is all you need to do it Google him . He  is all over the Internet because of the sheer value he provides to the world  through his prolific writing on everything around products. His posts in  Quora have tens of thousands of views.

 He is an avid contributor to Smashing Magazine. And let me tell you to be a  writer on Smashing Magazine, you need to be really really good. The bar is  way too high. No wonder, his medium blog has thousands of followers.
 He has also written a book on product management for startups called  “Making it right”.  When I read up some of his stuff, I thought I have to get  him on my show. In fact when I wrote to him I told him in all earnestness  that I found his writings beautiful and poetic. They stand out from the  crowd and are  insightful at a very visceral level.

Questions for Rian Van Der Merwe

  • Tell us a bit about your career progression.
  • The theme of discussion today is product management in startups. And I see a growing prevalence of hiring PMs in startups. Why do you think startups need a product management function. Aren’t CEOs/cofounders supposed to handle it in a startup?
  • At what stage of a startup growth should you hire your first product manager? What is the expected of him ?
  • What do you do first as a Product Manager in a startup? Where do you focus your energy?
  • When do you hire the second PM and then a team of PMs?
  • What are the biggest challenges of introducing Product Management into a startup?
  • How do you build trust quickly with a team who might be skeptical about the Product Management role?
  • How do you introduce process into a team that is used to be scrappy, and how do you know what level of process is appropriate?
  • I have been asking to PMs who are new into their roles about their first 100 day plan. I have had a podcast with Gopal Shenoy who made some great points about being very intentional about planning your first 100 days. I even wrote a Linkedin post gathering all my thoughts from various different sources. But that plan varies according to the size of the organization? What are your thoughts around it? You too have just moved into a new organization. what does your runway look like?
  • What about distributed teams? Is it difficult to be a Product Manager on a remote team? What are some things that can make that easier?
  • You have written a very popular article titled “How to avoid building products that fail”, which is supposedly an excerpt from your book.  Do you want to summarise that?
  • What are some of the vital skills you think a product manager can’t do without.