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"Seeing The Matrix" For Product Builders, Opportunities & More

"Seeing The Matrix" For Product Builders, Opportunities & More
By Scott Belsky • Issue #14 • View online
Fall has arrived. Personally, I’ll miss summer but I am ready for it. Hope this ~monthly-ish issue of Elaboration finds you well. What’s top of mind?
  • 4 Thoughts/Ideas, Rapid Fire!
  • What’s the equivalent of “seeing the matrix” for product builders?
  • Opportunities In The Portfolio

4 Thoughts/Ideas, Rapid Fire
(1) Computer Vision For Anything & Everyone: I was excited to participate in the latest round for Roboflow, a company that lets any developer create and train a working computer vision model in less than 24 hours starting with just a few dozen images. In future world of immersive experiences (like, when we’re all wearing AR glasses with cameras), we’ll want to be able to identify everything we see - from raccoons, to every playing card in a deck, to a raccoon eating a playing card (?!?). I think it is a cool idea to let anyone with knowledge or interest in a deep but narrow part of the world to unlock artificial intelligence for it, starting with computer vision.
Here's Roboflow at work identifying Uno cards...
Here's Roboflow at work identifying Uno cards...
(2) Startup Hardware Never Works, Unless It Does: One of the very few hardware teams I have ever worked with is Whoop. I met Will Ahmed and team when they were raising the seed round for “Bobo” which eventually became Whoop. I loved the vision of a high performing fitness device, despite the looming threats from Apple and others, because I believed that a growing market would want world class insight and control over their health and fitness. I was especially excited about the digital experience that Will imagined back in 2013, and we agreed the visualization of the data would be a major factor. One of the very first connections made was with a Behance member named Martin Oberhäuser based in Hamburg. Martin is one of the best infographics designers I’ve seen, and he ultimately became a key partner in the Whoop journey. Well, fast forward to a week ago, the Whoop team unveiled version 4.0 (it is amazing), and I especially loved this little shout-out to the inevitable crew of big company competitors that will take v4 apart and try to copy them… ;-)
(3) Educating For The Creator Economy: I was back on the road for the first time in a while last month in San Diego at the ASU+GSV Summit, perhaps the premier event for technology in education. Here’s a video of my conversation with EdTech investor Kevin Zhang about how we set up the next generation to stand out, start businesses, and succeed through creativity.
Stage X The Transforming Impact of The Creator Economy and Potential for Education | ASU+GSV 2021
Stage X The Transforming Impact of The Creator Economy and Potential for Education | ASU+GSV 2021
(4) Upcoming Product Releases For The Creative World: Ok, this isn’t really an idea, but hope it well you make your ideas happen! Every year my teams at Adobe - from Lightroom and Photoshop cracking the future of photography and imaging, to the video teams, to 3D & Immersive teams building for future mediums - all come together to share our updated vision for the future of creativity…as well as updates for our products. This year we’re shipping some exciting new features as well as sharing a sneak of what’s to come in 2021. Little quick shout-out here to join us! It’s free to tune into Adobe MAX and watch the keynote on October 26th as well as other sessions with some creative luminaries we admire.
"Seeing The Matrix" For Product Builders
You know that iconic scene, at the end of The Matrix (the original!), when Neo suddenly “gets it.” He picks bullets out of thin air as if they are cute and curious little things. As the next installment of The Matrix comes out I’ve been thinking, what’s the equivalent of “seeing the matrix” for product leaders? This question prompted me to jot down a few things i’ve observed or learned (and a lot that I am still trying to learn) that I feel very strongly about, but I thought it would be a fun brainstorm: what essential realizations cause product leaders to see every challenge and opportunity differently?
  • That a prototype is worth a hundred meetings, and almost all product meetings that aren’t grounded with a prototype are a waste of time (or worse). A meeting without a prototype is like a jury deliberation without a court transcript, you’ll start imagining different things and become untethered. A prototype immediately surfaces gaps in logic or business concerns. It is the fastest way to drive alignment. It is hard to argue with an amazing experience, but all too easy to critique ideas and mince words.
  • That consumer (and prosumer) products ultimately succeed because of how people feel about themselves using them. Ego analytics, surprise and delight, and hooks to appeal to our laziness, vanity, and selfishness in the first mile of product experience are the biggest secret in product. Yep, if you can really internalize and apply this, you are seeing the matrix. Most on-boardings and top-of-funnel experiences fall short because products fail to accommodate these natural human tendencies. We’re all busy and skeptical of anything new. All products must (at least initially) capitalize on this truth rather than try to defy it.
  • That the best way to review a product experience is to ask 3 questions on EVERY screen: “how did I get here?” “what do I do now?” “where do I go next?” — these questions will reveal flaws in object model, UX, onboarding, and orientation. Customers — whether in the enterprise or as consumers — want to feel safe and confident at every part of a product journey. Can you imagine being transported to different places without any sense of how you got there or how you get back!? It would be scary. And yet we do that all the time to people digitally. The object model of a product is about familiarity, consistency, and orientation. Ask yourself these three crucial questions to find the problems.
I had about ten others that came to mind, you can read them all here - and let me know what you feel is missing
What is “Seeing The Matrix” For A Product Leader? | by Scott Belsky | Sep, 2021 | Medium
Opportunities In The Portfolio
General Opportunities:
  • Adobe: We have some pretty remarkable stuff cooking… About 4 years into my role leading product, eng, and design for creative products at Adobe, I am extraordinarily excited about parts of our pipeline that took years to build. If you’re an engineer for web apps, mobile, or a designer or product leader particularly passionate about building tools for the creative world, send me a note (reply to this email). There are a few once-in-a-lifetime product inflection moments ahead, and we’re building quite the dream team right now…
  • Join A High-Growth Start-up: There are several companies in my portfolio that are growing on all cylinders, and their retention and growth charts are among the best I’ve ever seen. I (or my Operations partner, Sheldon) would be happy to share a few good matches to the right candidates 1:1, just drop us a note alongside a portfolio URL.
Specific Opportunities From Teams I Support:
  • Cashdrop: The no-fee, mobile-only online storefront for the new generation of entrepreneurs is looking to higher leaders in product, growth and engineering (see jobs).
  • OpenSea: the first and largest marketplace for non-fungible tokens is looking for a product designer, engineers and a general counsel.
  • NexHealth: helping doctors modernize their businesses and helping patients receive a modern healthcare experience. Looking for a leaders to help with the developer business that will be responsible for go-to-market on the API product. (email me with interest)
  • Ramp: building the modern financial stack that enables companies to accelerate growth without compromising on their finances. Looking for designers (hiring for 3!), technical recruiter, and growth marketer.
  • Mercury: building the bank for startups, Mercury is looking for a VP of Marketing, VP of Sales and VP of Finance (see jobs descriptions).
  • Circle: Building the modern community platform for every creator and brand in the world: think “Shopify for creator/brand-led communities.” Looking for a Product Marketing Manager, Senior Front-end Engineers and Senior Designers.
  • Scoot Science: If you love the ocean and science, and are excited about the intersection of technology, ocean data, and operational climate change decision making, Scoot Science is building a virtual window into the ocean for marine stakeholders through ocean data management and is looking for a Data Engineer, a Full Stack Engineer and Customer Success Lead.
  • Recur: A cutting-edge technology company leveraging blockchain to connect Brands to their Fans in an engaging NFT experience is looking to build out their team across all job functions: VP of Art, Finance Manager (FP&A), VP of Community, Product Manager (FrontEnd), Director of Support, VP of Marketing. (email me with interest)
  • Bubble: Bubble enables thousands of businesses around the world to build software solutions without code and is looking for VP Finance candidates, VP Marketing candidates and a Senior Paid Acquisition Marketer.
  • Alma: Making it easier for consumers to access high-quality, affordable mental health care by supporting providers. Currently in search of a product leader who will play an essential role in building and executing the product strategy and vision, while scaling Alma’s platform, to create exceptional experiences for mental health providers and patients alike. (email me with interest)
  • Pogo: Reimagining the data economy by directly rewarding people for their data. Team is looking to grow its consumer growth marketing team and also looking for full-stack engineers. (email me with interest)
  • Otter: Just as Airbnb redefined travel and empowered millions to turn spare space into income, Otter is doing the same for childcare and stay-at-home parents. In search of talent across a number of roles (engineering, product, design, operations, support, data science). (email me with interest)
  • WorkOs: “Stripe for enterprise-ready features” providing a modern API platform that empowers any developer to quickly build and ship enterprise features. Looking to add VP Engineering, Head of Recruiting and first Sales hire. (email me with interest)
  • Runway: a consumer-grade social product that reinvents how business financials are presented through modern design and engineering is looking for a product designer, product-first frontend engineer and product-first full-stack engineer.
Did you enjoy this issue?
Scott Belsky

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Scott Belsky, NY/SF