Kenton Kivestu

Founder @RocketBlocks. Previously built products at Google, Zynga and Flurry. Love to sail & to cook, but not simultaneously.

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Stop wasting people’s time: Run a solid (product) meeting

Most meetings are useless. It is not because the core concept of people getting together to discuss ideas and make decisions is flawed. But rather because most meetings are bloated (too many attendees), unfocused (unclear what the expected output is) and poor forums for decision making (result of the prior two factors). Those meetings slow progress. Slowed progress kills morale. Axe them.

If you do need to have a meeting, there are rules you can follow to make it a positive force for progress:

1) If there is no decision to be made, you don’t need the meeting. Just send an email with an information update.*

2) A decision should be the goal of the meeting, the agenda should cover the necessary agenda topics to reach the decisions. The goal and agenda must be stated in advance so everyone is aware. How can you expect to get a solid prioritization of feature ideas for the next sprint if...

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4 Key Differences to PM'ing for B2C vs. B2B

NOTE: I’ve launched advertising platforms at both Google and Flurry and ran Zynga mobile poker (iOS, Android). The notes below are based off my experience in these contrasting consumer and b2b roles.

What’s the difference between product management at a B2C role vs. B2B? A former co-worker asked me recently and it’s a great question. Many aspects (and skill sets) that a PM needs are exactly the same, regardless of whether the end customer is a business or a consumer. At the end of the day, your job is to set a vision, wrangle x-functional resources and launch great product(s). But certain aspects change shift dramatically and I’ve highlighted four key differences below. No doubt that four is an incomplete list but hopefully a good primer on some of the most common, key differences.

Access to the front line
In a lot of B2C cases, there isn’t a large direct sales team, which is a...

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How to set & achieve meaningful OKRs

In 2011, when I joined Zynga to work on the mobile poker franchise, we were getting trounced by a competitor named Texas Poker. Their UX was better. They were smoking us on appstore top grossing rankings. And they had 5x the features (not to mention a “premium” pro version of the game they’d just launched). For a company who unequivocally dominated the poker space on FB, our position in the mobile poker market was borderline comical.

The team set an OKR to take the throne: become the 1 top grossing iOS poker game. And then something incredible happened, we did (~6 months later). In my career, I’ve seen many an OKR go haywire (both at Google and Zynga) so this post is my attempt to distill & isolate the common traits I’ve seen in good implementations of an OKR.

First, what is an OKR and why bother?
Google has used OKRs since 1999 at the urging of KPCB partner John Doerr and Rick Klau...

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How to Build Solid Roadmaps: Part II

This is my 2nd post on the topic of “How to build solid roadmaps.” In part 1, I wrote about using two vectors to map out the full set of product opportunities for your product/team/company.

The 1 sentence summary is that if you consider all trends (from your internal data to external market data) and all beliefs (from the core beliefs you hold to what you hear/see/recognize your customers need), you can map out the set of product opportunities. It looks like this:

The @Quibb community provided great feedback, many of whom rightly noted something akin to: “Great, but how do you transform this into an actionable roadmap?” Good question. Beliefs and trends are really the fundamental building blocks. A lot of tactics are required before a roadmap emerges. In whole, the process might look like this:

Beliefs and trends -> This helps illuminate the full scope of opportunities

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Re-entering the mobile app universe: Lessons from a 4-week experiment

4 weeks ago, while on vacation in Costa Rica, I dropped my iPhone and caused irreparable damage. When I returned stateside, I did something crazy: I decided to go “app-less” for 4 weeks (note: I used an original iPhone 3 to make calls and check my email on but none of my standard apps support iOS 3.x anymore). Yesterday, I replaced my iPhone and re-entered the app universe.

Here are some of my key take-aways upon re-entrance to mobile world.

First impressions
Opening screens and moments make a big impact. I fell in love again with the Dots tutorial/intro - which is still the best in class as far an engaging, clean, effective intro goes - and was blown away by LinkedIn’s. At first, I thought the choice of scenery (a Manhattan street - but decidedly not Wall St.), seemed too ordinary. But it quickly hit - LinkedIn is everyone’s professional network and what better to illustrate...

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Learn by doing: 3 ways running a business makes you a better PM

For the things we have to learn before doing them, we learn by doing them - Aristotle

When I worked at Google, @kevaldesai gave me some advice: “be like him”. He was referring to another PM I knew and noted that his success was due in large part to a deep understanding of other key functions (sales, support, marketing, etc) outside of engineering/product.

So I asked this PM, how do you do it? And his response was: “I sell TV wall mounts in my spare time…”

It was not the response I expected. But as he explained, it made sense. He used AdWords as his primary sales channel - he’d felt the pains first hand of linking Analytics to AdWords, experimental beta campaigns & the occasional bug. He built and maintained his own site, customer database, integrated payments, and front end. He dealt directly with the suppliers in China he was buying wall mounts from. And he answered the support...

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The 3 Skillsets that Make Successful Product Managers

“When a project goes well, the engineering team was brilliant. When it fails, that meddlesome PM sabotaged everything… ”- An anon sr. engineer at Google

Being a Product Manager is tough. Succeeding is even harder. Over the last year, as I’ve taken on the responsibilities of managing a team of PMs I’ve been forced to think deeply about the skills that make successful PMs. It’s a tough question and no doubt I’ll refine my thinking in years to come but here is my framework to date.

At a high level, success as a PM comes down to passing a hurdle in each of the the categories below and typically indexing very highly in at least 1 category.

Successful PMs excel at 3 core skill sets:

  1. Setting a vision
  2. Getting stuff done
  3. Generating insights

Setting a vision
Engineers own the code base. Sales owns the pipeline. Great PMs own the vision. This doesn’t mean they “hijack” the vision - every...

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How to grow your app revenue with DuPont analysis

When I worked at Google, Eric Schmidt used to say “Revenue solves all known problems.” He was right.

And if you’re monetizing a mobile app today, there is a good chance that in-app purchases (IAP) are a critical component of your monetization (if not the sole pillar).* Yet we don’t have great tools for understanding the mechanics of revenue models driven by IAP. Financial analysts who wrestle with similar problems can shed some light.

Financial analysts often use a technique called DuPont Analysis - named after the famous chemical company that created it - to understand what components of a business are driving financial returns.

The DuPont Analysis equation looks like this:

This equation states that if you take a company’s profit margin, asset turnover and financial leverage, multiply them together, you’ll get Return on Equity (ROE) - a measure of how much profit a company...

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How to build a solid product roadmap: Part 1

Recently, I’ve spent more time mentoring and managing junior PMs and the other day one posed a deceitfully simple question: how do you build a good roadmap?

At first blush, it seems like an easy question to answer. Consider what your current customer base wants, what unmet needs they still have, what your product vision is, how it aligns with company strategy, what new capabilities exist (or will exist) that you can take advantage of, what your engineering team wants to build, your sales team, your UX team, and so on.

You could answer those questions and build a roadmap. In fact, you could just stack rank a list of features you have on your to-do list, team idea wall, hack-a-thon whiteboard, or brainstorming area. That would make a roadmap. But it’s liable to be an ineffective one, and at worst, a train wreck. A roadmap should be a cohesive plan – grounded in data and beliefs – that...

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The pyramid model & what it means for PM focus

In journalism, one of the first things writers learn is the inverted pyramid. The inverted pyramid reinforces the concept that news articles need to begin by focusing on the critical, weighty aspects of the story first: who? what? when? where? why? After that, they can expand upon additional details, add more color, and eventually cover other related background info.

Why does this matter

The inverted pyramid serves 2 key purposes: 1) it ensures that a reader who starts the story and leaves it at any point will garner the most important facts first and 2) it ensures operational efficiency because editors - if pressed for space - should easily be able to lop off the end of any given article with no fear of cutting out the most pertinent facts. Failure to follow the inverted pyramid model is where the term “bury the lead” comes from.


In product management, it’s the opposite.


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