Steven Sinofsky

Director, Product Hunt

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON March 24, 2016

Discussion

Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
Hi, I'm Steven Sinofsky, a director at Product Hunt. I work with a16z as a Board Partner on Product Hunt, Tanium, and Everlaw and also work with Box and many other companies. I worked on some PC products in a previous life. I ♥️ products and talking about making them; been known to write some blog posts. Super excited to be here! 🙏
Corley@corleyh · COO @ Product Hunt
Hi Steven! So many questions I could ask - what is one technological advancement (from the past) that you find particularly interesting and what about it fascinates you? And looking forward what is one technological problem that you are personally curious about and what about it makes it interesting to you?
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@corleyh Without giving a "tech trends" sort of answer, I am genuinely fascinated all the time with how every industry I interact with is being changed by software. Just a few minutes ago I was at a diner and the construction workers at the table next to me were (loudly) talking about social media and the way that people are tweeting/facebooking the project status to friends, family, and the regulators (!). I just love seeing how software impacts things. I takes me way back to when I used to get excited to just see someone on a plane using PowerPoint :-)
Chris@coolbearcjs · CEO
Do you think the PH team has an unhealthy infatuation with cat related gifs and emojis? Is there a thought that medication or counseling should be used to improve production within the office? I will hang up and listen for your answer. 🙀🙀🙀😂😂😂
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@coolbearcjs You can have neither too many kittens nor too much emoji. 🍪🐱😎
Niv Dror@nivo0o0 · VC at Shrug Capital
@stevesi @coolbearcjs I agree with Steven.
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
Hi Steven :) How do you get SO MUCH WORK DONE? What's the secret? 🙏
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
* meaningful/important/impactful work
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@mscccc HAHA Thank you. I permit myself to make a lot of typos and mistakes and just correct them.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Can you give us a story or an insight into what it was like working with Bill Gates?
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@eriktorenberg It was so long ago -- thats always the tough part of talking about it. We were kids so to speak (I was pretty much your age then). So anything I say sounds so weird when I think about it. But it was an amazing experience at an amazing time at the company. I do love to share this story even though it is first person to some extent because it has so much of what can be incredibly fun to be at the right place at the right time working for the right leader http://www.businessweek.com/1996...
Jeff Needles@jsneedles · Data @ Houseparty & Maker of Things
Hi @stevesi 👋 You've recently all-but-confirmed your identity as batman... do you have any other alter-egos? Also, favorite board game would be....? cc: @mscccc
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@jsneedles @mscccc I love Frogger which I think by modern standards counts as a board game. 🐸🐸🐸🐸🐸 I have no ego, but many alternatives.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What does your day to day look like? Would you ever consider using Snapchat like @msuster does? showing insights to the day and advice for startup folk?
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@bentossell @msuster I bookend my day with breakfast at one of my favorite diners when I read and write and tweet and then at the end of the day yoga. In the middle is all about meeting founders, working with the companies I am lucky enough to work with, and using new products. I'd love to use snapchat but I can't figure out how to make it work being as I am Gen X and are super afraid of randomly broadcasting myself to the interwebs.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Hey Steven! Thanks for taking the time :) What are some of your favourite questions to ask founders at the early stages? From that, what questions do you like to see answered as a startup grows and what do you like to challenge the team on?
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@bentossell I really love to learn the path that founders took in life. I love to hear how they got started in technology, what jobs they had (paid or otherwise), what their family tech scene was like, how cofounders met and more. I think I naturally do this with people I meet anyway but it is especially fun when connecting a story like that to the creation of a product and company. The most interesting questions are always about scale and growth—there are no easy answers. Well really a better way to say that are answers are everywhere, but picking the best answer is where all the fun and challenges can be.
Andreas Klinger@andreasklinger · Tech at Product Hunt 💃
What traits/skills makes an ideal product manager?
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@andreasklinger Here's my best attempt at product manager JD. It does seem like every one has a favorite. PM is very contextual and so I always would say first is to know who is your boss, your engineering manager, your design manager, and your QA manager. Only then can you figure out what you should do as a PM and what the ideal PM should be. PS: At Microsoft product manager is in marketing (demand generation, promotion, pricing) and Program Management is what SV calls product management. that's a lot of confusion https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com...
Andreas Klinger@andreasklinger · Tech at Product Hunt 💃
@stevesi thanks for your pov. 100% agree - PM is one of the fuzziest roles we have in tech. especially the market/marketing pov comes often too short.
Gloria Lombardi@lombardi_gloria · Founder and Publisher of MARGINALIA
Hi Steven, What are the key leadership traits a founder should have to grow the business? And, based on your experience, what are the challenges in developing/ owning those traits? Many thanks!
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@lombardi_gloria There are as many types of founders and traits as there are companies and so I would always say there are characteristics that matter to success but these are just what you'd generally expect -- curiosity, drive, passion, etc. It is super tough to answer in a specific way because you see so many attributes and want to be careful about causal v. correlation v. circumstantial. Business is definitely a social science!
Gloria Lombardi@lombardi_gloria · Founder and Publisher of MARGINALIA
@stevesi Many thanks. Agree, business is definitely a social science!
Shaun Modi@shaunmodi · Designing for Product Hunt and TM
Hi Steven, thanks for doing this! What technologies are you most interested in and why?
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@shaunmodi I am totally fascinated by machine learning right now along with everyone else. My interest is very much caught up in the practical--like combining it with other technologies (thus making it impure), how to iterate on ML based features quickly, debugging (like what @Tay is doing today), and how authority/accountability works in products using ML.
Shane Walker@iamshanewalker · CEO | Founder of Mache Media.
Hello Steven. My name is Shane I am the CEO and Co-Founder of Mache (www.mache.news) , a startup out of Case Western. Not being based in the valley where startup culture is all around us, can you refer me and my team to a curriculum or road map for the steps needed to succeed? FYI...We are rolling out an app that curates the highest viewed articles from over 300 student newspapers in the US and 130 in the UK. The feedback we are getting in Beta is fantastic!
Lucy Guo@lucy_guo · Prev Snapchat, Co-Founder of Scale
What are the most interesting product trends you've observed? One thing I've noticed is that new apps are switching over to chat UIs -- what do you think about this?
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@lucy_guo When something becomes big then every app/product/service converges on that thing. Everything looked like a word processor in the 80s, email in the 90s, then a browser, then a photo sharing tool, and now a messaging tool. These things are categories and then ingredients--think of the fact that fancy text is everywhere, you end up "browsing" in most apps, photos are as common as text, and so on. Right now we are seeing this play out with machine learning techniques. I think we will see ML applied to everything and eventually be a key part of everything.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Steven! Broad Q Here, so take it anyway you'd like - What's something you used to fervently believe that you now see as fundamentally misguided?
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@eriktorenberg Actually related to the Thiel question. I spent a long time deeply believing in the production of documents as a "thing" and how much effort an individual should put into formatting and preparing information (at work especially). Now I am convinced that doing that is almost always misguided and tools should change to reflect that.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
What was the transition like working at Microsoft as an executive to then working with startups as a VC?
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@eriktorenberg There's a vast vast difference. I should probably do a podcast on big company to startup world :-) The short answer is until you've been part of both, you can't imagine; and also if you're a startup and think you should do big company things or a big company and think you should act like a startup…well stop there because you can't. not even a little bit.
Andreas Klinger@andreasklinger · Tech at Product Hunt 💃
Hi Steven, You have traveled the world and ran companies/divisions for multiple markets In your opinion: What is an advantage (If there is one) tech startup starting from Europe have over one starting in the US. Especially is there one that they dont leverage often enough?
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@andreasklinger The advantage to being in europe would be if you wanted to build a company that is specific to pan european needs. From a pure demographic perspective if you want to build a global scale market you have to include the whole of europe, the US, china, etc. You can start that from anywhere but need to be focused on that. But having a springboard from the US market has proven helpful to global expansion. We will see where the expansion takes the massive companies in China and India--it is still early there. One thing I've seen across all markets is that there are many ways to build a great business by focusing on the local market and if your market isn't english based or not connecting with english speaking customers that's totally cool but you need to recognize the limits that might place on growth relative to competitors that might enter your market with a customer base head start.
Andy Toth@andtoth · VC
Hi Steven. Thanks for being here. I'd like to ask the famous Peter Thiel question: What important truth do very few people agree with you on? Thanks for answering :)
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@andtoth Well I don't know if it is "important" in any metaphysical sense, but I get a lot of pushback from a lot of people over my views on the transition we are undergoing with computing devices. I've definitely held a belief for quite some time that we are undergoing a massive shift and while everyone agrees on mobile there's not as fast an agreement on what it means for all the other computers we use ;-)
Betsy Lin@eatingbreakfast · Designer at 30Weeks
Hi Steven, thanks for being here! What do you enjoy the most in the process of making a product and why?
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@eatingbreakfast I enjoy the full "360 experience" of making a product. I love the genesis moment, the planning, the execution and execution lulls, and the deciding when to release (when the most effort goes into doing the least amount of change). I don't have a favorite phase and get super excited at each step.
ALASKANJACKSON@alaskanjackson · Nobody of Consequence
Do you see a place/value in engineering/development for non technical staff. Or more to the point. Is group think an impediment in a room full of engineers? *I appreciate that you help folks on twitter
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@alaskanjackson YES of course! First there are many roles, especially on larger teams/products/companies that are not about code, design, test. But certainly to work at a software/service company a base in science/technology/math does help. I definitely think that all engineers is just as challenging (ne negative) as any thread of homogeneity (school, gender, race, age, major, etc.)
Timur Insepov@rightofbrain · Courage builder
Hi Steven! If you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do?
Steven Sinofsky@stevesi · a16z
@rightofbrain Wow both time and money? That I can't even imagine. I'd certainly talk to my old boss to understand how to deal with financial resources and do super helpful things! For all the time...wow, I'd probably watch Highlander again to get a sense. Tough and deep question.