The Product Founder’s Dilemma: Balancing Passion and Practicality

Build thriving companies by seeking out the right resources and being open to feedback


Boris Manhart

10 months ago | 4 min read

Build thriving companies by seeking out the right resources and being open to feedback

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Product founders are a special breed of entrepreneurs driven by their passion for creating the perfect product. They pour their hearts and souls into their work and often sacrifice everything else to pursue their vision.

However, while their focus on the product is admirable, it can also be a double-edged sword. Product founders often lack the necessary skills and expertise to build a successful company. They may struggle with key aspects of business such as fundraising, marketing, and leadership, and, as a result, they either need too much time to launch or never launch at all.

As a startup advisor, I often help product founders overcome this dilemma. I’m facing these five problems while working with product founders, and this is what I advise on how to solve them.

1. Lack of fundraising skills

One of the biggest challenges facing product founders is the inability to secure funding for their company. This can be due to a lack of experience in fundraising, an inability to effectively communicate the value of their product or a lack of connections in the industry. To solve this problem, product founders can seek help from a fundraising specialist or mentor who can guide them through the process and provide valuable insights. It’s also vital for product founders to do their homework and thoroughly research potential investors, as well as be open to feedback and suggestions from others.

2. Poor marketing skills

Another common problem for product founders is a lack of marketing expertise. Marketing is a crucial aspect of any business, as it helps to create demand for the product and drive sales. Product founders who are not skilled in marketing may struggle to effectively promote their product and reach their target audience. To solve this problem, product founders can consider hiring a marketing specialist or freelancer to handle the marketing efforts for the company. It’s also essential for product founders to seek out marketing resources and education to improve their skills in this area.

3. Weak leadership skills

Product founders are often so focused on the product that they neglect to develop their leadership skills. This can lead to problems with employee morale and retention and difficulties in making critical business decisions. To solve this problem, product founders can seek leadership training and mentorship and be open to feedback from employees and colleagues. It’s also crucial for product founders to work on their communication skills and be transparent with their team.

4. Inability to effectively receive feedback

Product founders who are not open to feedback may struggle to improve their product and grow their business. To solve this problem, product founders can use the  “5 A’s” for effectively receiving feedback:

Ask for it: Encourage honesty by making it clear that giving negative feedback will not be punished, but rather appreciated. Use thought-sharing techniques and dedicate time and space for feedback in meetings.

Acknowledge it: Confirm that you heard the feedback correctly and amplify the thoughts and emotions behind it to show understanding.

Appreciate it: Show gratitude for the opportunity to improve and for the help in doing so.

Absorb it: Take time to fully consider the feedback and reflect on whether you agree or disagree. Try to understand the other person’s perspective.

Act on it: Determine what action you will take based on the feedback, and communicate this to the person who provided it. Follow through on any changes or improvements that you commit to.

By using the 5 A’s, product founders can effectively receive feedback and use it to improve their product and grow their business.

5. Not focussing on the company’s success

Product founders who are CEOs are responsible for setting and communicating the company’s vision, mission, values, and quarterly OKRs, building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders, reporting to the board and investors, hiring and managing the executive team, holding team meetings, setting and holding employees accountable for their quarterly OKRs, handling interdepartmental conflicts, and ensuring that hiring and resource allocation aligns with company values. Besides ensuring that the product meets the needs of customers.

That sounds like a lot. However, product founders should only focus on the tasks and responsibilities they enjoy. As the business grows and evolves, it may be necessary for the product founder to step back as CEO and focus on their core strength — product development. Product founders can consider hiring a CEO or other leadership roles to handle the company’s day-to-day operations while focusing on what they do best. This can allow them to continue making valuable contributions to the company while allowing the business to thrive under strong leadership.

In conclusion, product founders face unique challenges in founding and growing a successful company. While their focus on the product is admirable, it can also be a double-edged sword, as they often need more skills and expertise in critical areas such as fundraising, marketing, and leadership. To overcome these challenges, product founders must seek out the help of specialists and freelancers who can complement the company’s competencies and provide valuable insights.

One key resource that can be particularly valuable is an advisor who has “been there, done that” and knows all the steps to succeed with the company. Someone who can provide practical guidance and support as product founders navigate the challenges of starting and growing a business.

While product founders may face significant challenges, they can overcome them and build thriving companies by seeking out the right resources and being open to feedback.

By the way, I just started my “Product-Market Fit & Beyond” newsletter. By signing up, you will get access to the tools, resources, and expert guidance you need to take your idea to product-market fit and beyond. Sign up here.


Created by

Boris Manhart

I'm a serial entrepreneur and startup advisor at GROWTH UNLTD. Get your startup to product-market fit and beyond:







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