Mitali Pattnaik

Co-founder, Intro. Former PM at Twitter, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON May 17, 2016

Discussion

Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
Hi I'm Mitali. I am co-founder and CEO of Intro - a professional networking platform for Slack teams. Intro creates a professional network for each Slack so that team members can reach people they need for sales, recruiting, and any other purpose using their team's common connections. We recently launched our beta product on the Slack App Directory and already have 1000s of teams using us. Before starting Intro I was an Entrepreneur In Residence at Foundation Capital and prior to that I spent almost 15 years in product management roles at Twitter, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft (life-long PM!) I'm excited to be here and share my thoughts on product management, startups, my career, being a woman and immigrant founder, or anything else :-)
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
During your 15 years in product management, how, if at all, has PM evolved? What parts of it have become more important/prevalent? On what did you spend most of your time in years 1-3 vs. years 10-15?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@tomstocklein this is a great question! the biggest change is how much more data driven PM is as products have moved away from packaged software (where I started!) to web 1.0 (limited data) to web and mobile apps (tons of data). i am extremely data driven and i think this is a great thing, however i do feel like some of the art of listening to and observing users has been lost in the process. there is no replacement for empathy - core skill of being a good PM.
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
How has your PM background affected how you lead as CEO? Also, what advice do you have for product oriented CEO's who sometimes take over the reigns and possibly overstep into the domain of others?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@charles_kunene this is a great question and one i have thought about a lot. in some ways a PM background is a big asset - because early on at a startup the most important thing is to be able to build a product (sometimes multiple products if the first doesn't work), get it to product-market fit. but it can have some pitfalls - one is constantly solving every problem with a product mindset, be it sales, or fundraising, or PR. the 2nd risk is not understanding that once you have a product that is working with its initial market, distribution becomes *much* more important to the success of your company than the product.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What is it like being an EiR? What do those days look like typically?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@bentossell it varies a LOT by person and firm. in a way its what you make of it. the typical outcomes of an EIRship are: you start a company, you join one of the VC firm's portfolio companies, or you join the firm itself as a VC. its best to decide early on which of these is your desired outcome so you can optimize the rest of your time there. for me it was #1 so i used my time mainly to look at a lot of interesting ideas, talk to founders building in those spaces and decide what i wanted to build
Farhan@frrank_1 · CEO at Avveu
As immigrant founder what were your biggest chellenges to overcome and what's your advice for others who are in the same position as you were?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@frrank_1 H1-B! i came to the US in 1996 and despite working at all those places, I didn't get a green card till 2011. so that was the first time i could even leave to start a company. its a huge problem for the country, our economy and the startup ecosystem. one firm that is fixing this in a very American way - is Unshackled. they are a VC firm who give H1-B visas to the founders they fund. I am a proud investor in them.
Farhan@frrank_1 · CEO at Avveu
@mitali that is great, so that means I can use your reference on applying, now the applications are closed. one more thing, as other countries like UK, Australia and Canada are providing you with the visa why the USA is not doing it.
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
Having majored in Philosophy, how did you secure your first PM role? (Btw, Philosophy is an awesome major, but some hiring managers may prefer CS/Engineering or Design majors for the PM role...)
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@tomstocklein I am a computer science and philosophy double major - so yeah sadly i fit into the "CS degree required" category tho i do believe this requirement is a mistake that companies should get rid of.
Michael Novotny@michaeljnovotny · Product, Availity; Maker LocalTown
What is the most valuable asset you brought to the table or wish you would have known when you first started as a PM?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@michaeljnovotny LISTEN! and WATCH! nothing beats listening to and observing your customers directly. I had the great fortune of starting my PM career at Microsoft Office under Steven Sinofsky and this was ingrained in us pretty early on.
Michael Novotny@michaeljnovotny · Product, Availity; Maker LocalTown
@mitali Thank you very much!
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
If you could be a Tech CEO for one week, who would you be and why?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@bentossell such a great question! probably Elon Musk so I can get a front row seat at the next Falcon launch. Because there's not much you can do at the company in a week so may as well get something awesome out of it :)
Snah Desai@s_haverford · Operations Analyst, ServiceTitan
How did you get into being a PM and what advice would you have for someone who aspires to be a PM at a startup?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@s_haverford I started as pm in college - as a sophomore intern at Microsoft. so in a way its all i have done :) internships are a great way to make the switch to pm, or taking on a parallel role such as in product marketing or even in ops and making the switch to product once you are more familiar with the company. also good PMs are inherently curious about products - so show that you care about the product of the startup, their competitors, where they shine / where their competition does better, what else they could be doing.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
You have achieved so much in career and have so much to be proud of. Is there anything that you regret, or would perhaps do differently in retrospect?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@ems_hodge oh i don't feel like i have achieved much! mostly i feel lucky. i grew up in Bombay in a building surrounded by slums - as most of the city is. very early on i realized i could be have been born in there instead of a few feet away in our apartment. so mostly i feel lucky :) but i do have some regrets. the biggest is prioritizing title over company / team. I have only done this once in my career but it was a mistake. ALWAYS seek out the best companies and teams that you want to work with. Regardless of your role or title.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Have any of your life experiences shaped you in being a good leader?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@ems_hodge i am a total international nomad (lived in bombay, cairo, a bunch of places in the US, cape town, london). so i generally have a much broader perspective of my product and company's customers and don't really believe the world revolves around silicon valley. at twitter for example international users were key to the company's growth and i imagine the same will be true for Intro. as a leader it has also given me a lot of empathy for different backgrounds of people on my team.
Ayrton De Craene@ayrton · Code @ Product Hunt
What does the future of the tech industry look like - what major changes or markets do you think will most change in the next 5 - 10 years?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@ayrton i think genomics will become much more mainstream. many more interesting applications for drones will emerge. we are already seeing delivery drones, and commercial uses like for agriculture and roofing maintenance! and self-driving cars will become a reality enabling a whole ecosystem of companies around them (besides transportation of course) such as insurance, connected apps, commerce
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
Thanks everyone for joining and for all the great questions!
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@mitali thanks for answering them!!
Mohak Bhambry@mohakbhambry · CEO-Voice Verso & Smart Cities Wheel
I am building my Startup - Smart Cities Wheel. An AI based technology to plan, design and sustain cities. What advises and specifics you would like to share?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@mohakbhambry wow! this sounds really cool and very very ambitious. honestly i am not sure if i have any specific advice for your project from this one line description... but i would say that its always best to start small, and solve real problems for real people. the big vision is important to motivate your team and investors but in order to get there you need small, achievable targets. also you should check out Google (Alphabet)'s Sidewalk Labs project.
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
In your opinion, what makes Slack better than Asana, Basecamp, Hipchat and Yammer? What are you favorite features?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@tomstocklein I honestly have not used all of these other apps besides Asana, briefly. So I am not sure. But I don't think Slack's success is because they have better features than these apps necessarily. I feel its because they have built an incredible platform so that all the other apps that your company uses can plug into Slack - its this single "control panel" for your work that makes Slack so awesome
Thomas Stöcklein@tomstocklein · FoundersFundersFuture.com
6 months ago Slack launched their App Directory along with an $80mm fund to invest in integration startups. What is your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs planning on building slack integrations / starting up a company for/within the Slack ecosystem?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@tomstocklein This is a question best answered by someone at Slack probably but I'll give it a shot. I've worked on a lot of other platform products and Slack has one of the most open, developer-friendly platforms I have seen. They really want to create a win-win where they win *and* their developers win. So the best advice I can give is to build products and apps that achieve that win-win balance. If you can show that your app is not only useful for Slack users but in fact more people are using Slack, or using it more because of your app, that's the best possible scenario.
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
Hi Mitali, as PM how did you decide on which market and user insights were important enough to consider when working on a product's roadmap?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@charles_kunene this is honestly more of an art than science. of course if there is hard data - such as one market is much larger than the other, or one feature is much simpler to build and will have bigger impact than another, or one pain point is felt by every single customer, then pick those. but often there isn't hard data to make these decisions and you have to trust your gut (which is informed by experience) and your company / product team's priorities of what they want to build. if you are in this position, one suggestion is to build as little as possible in order to start collecting hard data. ie build an MVP and run experiments
Charles Kunene@charles_kunene · Co-founder & Product Designer @Obaa
What vision were investors buying into when they funded Intro? What are the biggest challenges you have to overcome to get there?
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@charles_kunene most of our investors invested in us (the team) and less so in Intro the product as we we were so early. Our biggest challenge is that we are building a network product and it will take time to build up the graph density to where we want it. We will get there but it requires investors who have the patience and faith in the team.
gaurav agarwal@gauravagrwal18
Hi, can I know little more about your product and it's usage in the non-tech market. For example competing with the big brands, I have my own paints company but it's often difficult to supersede old and big brand players even if you are better in terms of quality.
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@gauravagrwal18 Good question. We launched Intro only a few weeks back - right here on Product Hunt :) so its still very early days. But already we have seen hundreds of non-tech teams sign up. A big use case for us is within banks, hedge funds, and other financial institutions. They are using Intro to combine their networks and reach people for sales development / demand gen use cases
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
You've worked at some incredible companies. What have been the major differences across them? (Best v. worst bits?)
Mitali Pattnaik@mitali · Co-founder @IntroHQ. pm @ TWTR, GOOG
@ems_hodge best thing about Google was how much of a meritocracy it actually is despite its size. Of course biases exist everywhere, but Google was honestly the best in this regard. Best things about Twitter was the SF office! Before Twitter I had always commuted a long distance for work and once I worked at Twitter I decided I could never do the commute again. Luckily I started Intro right after :)