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FP 50 - Product & Technology Dinner

An intimate dinner, exclusively for the FP50 network brought together some of the most high-profile Product and Technology leaders in the London startup tech scene. On the agenda for the evening was discussing how best to develop best-in-class product and technology functions and the complexity of hiring, structuring and maintaining a high-performance culture in high-growth, and often highly changeable environments.

Attendee’s at FP 50 events include senior leaders from:

We asked the attendees ahead of the evening to think of some challenges that were keeping them up at night. They shared these challenges with us and with Toby Moore (ex SpaceApe, Founder/CTO & MindCandy, CTO) - who we had asked to help structure the evening - in advance so that we could consider these questions before the dinner and set the scene for rich and useful discussion later during the evening.

Here were some of the more pertinent questions and challenges that were raised.

Technology focused questions:

 - How do I keep developers interested and passionate?

 - How does the role of a CTO differ from that of a Lead Developer and how do I get there?

 - What is a tech-driven business and how do I know if I am in one?

 - How do I structure the team as the company grows?

 

Product focused questions:

 - How hard are others finding it to hire great product talent?

 - Linked to the above, does it work to look for those from other backgrounds with experience in engineering, analytics or strategy/management consultancy to make the jump into product management?

 - What is the role that a product leader should play, especially as they advance through a business hierarchy?

 - Do others find use in product coaches?

 - How do you build trust with the wider business so that you can speak multiple 'languages'? I.e. speak to ops, finance, commercial, marketing?

 - How are companies structuring their organisations more broadly when it comes to product?

 - Is Spotify's Tribes and Squads model all it’s made out to be as we try to scale our product ops?

 

When we all sat down on the night to discuss some of these challenges it became clear that coaching and mentoring is vital to development. Many of the more senior and experienced leaders were actively engaged with, and get use from, organisations like Product Tank and specific technology groups such as London Python Dojo and/or the London CTO’s group.

The main benefit of these groups, aside from serving as a sounding board for advice and bouncing ideas around, was that those who attend quickly learned from others in the space (who are perhaps more senior), that stepping up in product or technical leadership meant situating their point of view and opinions within the broader context of the business. In particular, learning techniques and tips on how to communicate with finance, operations, commercial or marketing functions as well as the more closely aligned design and UX functions to ensure that strategies and visions are in sync.

What also became clear on the night was that there are as many ways of organising a startup as there are attendees to talk about them. Obviously, successful companies that have open-sourced their org structures like Spotify’s ‘tribes and squads’ model have become default examples when it comes to how product and technology functions should or could be organised. At the dinner, almost all participants agreed that no one organisation structure fits all, and that different variations were perhaps more or less suitable for different types of company and stages of development. The closest we came to a consensus view was that regular shake up’s tend to encourage innovation and that org restructuring was a healthy part of a start-up’s growth story.

In addition to the main themes that were discussed on the night across the whole group there were plenty of rich discussions breaking out into smaller pods. Many of these conversations have continued long after the evening and some have even morphed into opportunities for investment and more formal advisory roles.

We would like to thank all those who attended, and hope that it proved a productive evening of rich and useful discussion, and we look forward to our next event - summer drinks with the whole FP 50 Mentor Group.

 

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