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Moving from Product Manager to Founder – Alexander Hipp on The Product Experience

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At some point, virtually every product person has had a run-in with their CEO and thought to themselves, “Hey, I could do a better job than they do.  Maybe I should start my own thing.”  Most of us then think about all the things we’d have to take on (or about the lack of a steady paycheck) and decide to keep working for others.

But some of us don’t—we hand in our notice and follow the dream of starting something new. This week, we talked to Alexander Hipp — co-founder of Beyond, formerly of Xing and N26 — about why he made the decision, what it’s been like so far, and what he’d advise anyone making a similar decision.

Featured Links: Follow Alexander on LinkedIn and Twitter | Beyond – a community platform for Creators | The PM Library – be part of the first social book library for the Tech and Startup industry | Eco-friendly products at Riptide.

Every week they chat with people in the know, covering the topics that matter to you – solving real problems, developing awesome products, building successful teams and developing careers. Find out more, subscribe, and access all episodes on The Product Experience homepage.


Episode transcript

Randy Silver: 

Hey, Lily. Have you ever wanted to just throw it all away? Tell your boss to stuff it and start your own thing, you know, be a founder or co-founder of a new company.

Lily Smith: 

Yes, definitely. And I have begun a number of side projects that I hoped would blossom into fully-fledged startup. But none of them really took off for one reason or another. I even started a blog way back about all the ideas that I didn’t have time to pursue. What about you, Randy?

Randy Silver: 

Yeah, you know, it’s just not really for me, I’ve realised, even though we’ve co-founded the podcast, and I have my own company for consulting. I like helping other people solve problems. So I think that my startup ambitions are limited to side projects. But I’m totally fascinated by people who make the transition from Product Manager to Founder,

Lily Smith: 

Then it’s a really good thing that we have one of those people here with us for a chat today. Alexander Hipp co-founded the pm library and spent a few years as Product Manager at Zing and N26. But he left behind his product career earlier this year to co-found a startup called Beyond with his best friend.

Randy Silver: 

And he’s here today to tell us all about what he’s learned so far. And what do you wish you knew before making the jump? Let’s get right into it.

Lily Smith: 

The product experience is brought to you by mind the product.

Randy Silver: 

Every week, we talk to the best product people from around the globe about how we can improve our practice, and build products that people love.

Lily Smith: 

Browse on mind the product to catch up on past episodes, and to discover an extensive library of great content and videos,

Randy Silver: 

Browse for free, or become a mind the product member to unlock premium articles, unseen videos, AMA’s roundtables, discount store conferences around the world training opportunities.

Lily Smith: 

Mind the product also offers free product tank meetups in more than 200 cities. And there’s probably one near you.

Randy Silver: 

Alex, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. For those people who aren’t familiar with you already who don’t know beyond who don’t know, the PM Library who don’t know all the other stuff you’ve done. Can you just give us a quick intro? Tell us what you’re up to now and how did you get into product?

Alexander Hipp: 

Hi, thanks a lot for having me. I got into product five, six years ago, straight out of university. I was doing five, six years ago of product management at university, the course was called Media and Communication Management. But in the end, there was a lot of psychology. How do people learn with new media? How does usability work, we had a bit of coding, we had a bit of designing. So it prepared me super well for starting as a PM, five, six years ago, and then directly straight out of university, I started acting in Hamburg, in Germany as a product manager, spent a couple of years and joined in 2016, the FinTech from Berlin, in Barcelona, two and a half years ago. And then at the beginning of the year, that’s probably the part where we’re talking about quite a lot today, I kind of jumped ship and started my own thing, co-founded something together with one of my best friends.

With all respect to designers and developers out there, I wouldn’t consider myself one. But with that history, I’m being responsible for the product side of Beyond. You mentioned the pm library, which is a side project. It grew from six friends together curating books for product people, if you haven’t checked it out, feel free. There are roughly 600 books now that we’re putting out there. A lot of authors you already had on the podcast. So there might be some quite nice gems in our selection.

Randy Silver: 

Yeah, I think we’ve got plenty of overlap. And there will be links to the pm library and everything else in the show notes. So don’t be afraid to check that stuff out. Before we get into why you made the jump from working as a product manager, building other people’s products to being a founder, just give us a little bit of background. Was Beyond your idea that your friends got into?

Alexander Hipp: 

Yeah, so Beyond actually was the next evolution of the PM library. The PM library was the six of us allowing others to put out their book recommendations. We called it on my shelves. And with beyond, we wanted to allow everyone out there. And not only books but content in general, that can be recommended to people who are interested in a specific topic. We did that for a couple of months, we learned a lot. And just two, three weeks ago, we decided to do kind of a pivot with the organisation. So we’re still working on community building. But since we were building a content curation platform, we actually consume quite a lot of content, and learned a tonne about where the internet is going in the next years, where community building, in essence is going in the next years. And so we said, “Okay, we want to combine those two things, we want to still build something where a community could evolve where people share content recommendations with each other. But the problem is fundamentally more in how people build community and if they’re owning part of that community.” So we wanted to leverage technology with Blockchain to allow normal people because at the moment, it’s let’s face it, it’s still quite techie. And it’s still quite developer focused. So we want to allow normal people to build communities with rep three technology where it’s so much easier for everyone to own a piece or to tokenize their the community to own a piece of that community. And yeah, that’s, what we’re currently investigating a bit more, interviewing a couple of people and having an MVP quite soon ready to be released.

Randy Silver: 

What made you decide that you wanted to take what had been a hobby and with the PM library and turn it into a business?

Alexander Hipp: 

The goal was not really to become a founder. In that sense, I see myself more as a creator, I always struggled with just kind of optimising existing products. So for me, it was always going one level deeper, I wanted to create something, I had the opportunity in both roles at things as well as in 2016, to start a couple of things from scratch, where there was completely Greenfield and we were allowed to explore. And I’m a product person who sends who felt much more in love with the problem, rather than with any solution like I don’t, I’m not so attached to a potential solution. I’m rather want to dig into a problem and try to understand it, and then try to solve it together with a team. Depends on how big the team is, at the moment. It’s just the two of us. But it’s still fun. And I think there was kind of building up over time, it was not a decision I made from one day to the other, but it was more like building up over a couple of years, where he said, ‘Okay, I really want to learn first how bigger companies or how tech companies work, how they’re being set up.’ And I think it’s still fundamental to be at one point successful, even if you’re just two people, you should know kind of the basics and how it works. And then, at the beginning of the year, the timing was just right, with my best friend just coming out of accelerator in Berlin. And we said, okay, let’s, let’s explore this, this opportunity with the pm hybrid dot 2.0. At that point. And since then, I think I learned more in this year than in kind of the 20 years before probably, and it’s fun. You can do whatever you want, you have to do whatever you think is best. So, yeah.

Lily Smith: 

And what about in terms of investment? How have you managed to fund it so far? And do you know what you need to do in order to get it to a point where it gets funded if it’s not funded already?

Alexander Hipp: 

Yeah, so we spent a while building our pitch deck for the first idea of beyond. We found one angel investor from Berlin who believed in us and we’re working together with them now. We wanted to make it bigger, but also kind of a reason for pivoting was that we found out that probably the idea we had was too much of a moonshot in the sense of the unit economics, plus content discovery. Monetizing content itself is already hard. And we see a lot of publishers struggling with this, well-established publishers, content discovery where you’re like selling the curation part is probably even more difficult. So there was kind of also a reason for, going a bit in a prosumer direction and away from the consumer direction. We had the feeling it’s easier, at least in Europe, as it seems. And I’m not an expert in this, but it seems to be way easier to find investors for prosumers, or b2b. Now, with web three coming up and us building a product in web three, there are also different ways in how you can get money from outside. So we’re exploring a couple of different directions at the moment.

Lily Smith: 

And you mentioned a couple of things there. A moonshot and unit economics, just kind of unpacking some of the business terminologies for those that haven’t, and aren’t familiar with those terms. What do you mean by that?

Alexander Hipp: 

So with moonshot, I think it’s coming from Google, or at least, it’s being connected a lot with Google where everything they’re doing should end up in a moonshot, where the risk is super high. But if you make it work, and if you gain a couple of million users, it’s a huge opportunity in that sense, because of the fact that the risk is super high. It’s also super risky for investors. And you can still have the best product out there, you can have the best team out there. But sometimes being successful with a moonshot company, or with a moonshot product, also depends a bit on luck, I would even say, like who, in our case, with a content curation platform, which probably would have been connected quite closely to who are the people recommending content on our platform, if we would get an Elon Musk, recommending content, it’s probably a different game, than if we have, like, a lot of people who just started out in a specific topic or don’t have a following at all. So at least with the focus we had in mind, we wanted to rather go towards the Elon Musk kind of direction, which makes it risky. And that’s kind of the moonshot.

The unit economics, in that sense, is just a formula on how much money you need to spend to acquire customers. And then, in the end, how much can you make with these customers? How much do they spend?

Randy Silver: 

So you’ve spent your career before this? Building Products as part of big teams, you know, building consensus doing stakeholder management, doing all kinds of things that are not day-to-day building? And now you’re sitting in a different chair, it’s just the two of you. What’s the biggest surprise so far? What are you spending time on that you never thought that you would end up doing?

Alexander Hipp: 

And it’s a really good question. And I’m probably in a quite lucky position. Because during my studies, I spent five or six years in a very small digital agency in my hometown. And there was three people, the two bosses and me. So in the end, I had to do everything already with design and coding and all these kinds of things. It probably didn’t have the label at that point. But I was used to kind of being a generalist in different things. And never really got an expert in development or design. I never wanted to be because I kind of like being in the centre.

As a product person, you need to embrace this, like you’re working in a big company, you have your experts, but you need to talk in the same language to them. So they understand you and you understand them. But what’s different now in compared to Xing and N26 is probably I have way fewer meetings, which is incredibly awesome. We do have a stand up every day. And we do have maybe one or two user interviews days where we talk to people about their problems. But that’s it. You don’t spend so much time just talking about stuff rather than doing things.

My co-founder is doing an incredible job when it comes to building the product from the development side. And I try to help with everything I know from the design and from the product side. We learned in the last couple of months that we are probably missing a bit of these commercial background people at the moment. And that’s the reason why both of us are kind of trying to learn as much as possible in that direction to cover that. But yeah, it’s, it’s not so different to what I was doing before still sitting in figma, and designing some things.

Randy Silver: 

Okay, so you answered my next question. And it also explains why use the term unit economics earlier. But what’s the thing that you’re you’re spending time on that you never did before. What’s been the biggest surprise, it’s something you now have to do.

Alexander Hipp: 

It’s actually not the unit economics. Like at N26, there was a lot of discussion about if the product people should own their unit economics, and I spent quite a lot of time working on cost reduction, etc. So that’s not completely new. I think the fundraising part is probably something that I imagined to be completely different. Because I’m a very honest person. So if something is broken, I would tell everyone and try to find the solution together. In fundraising, you need to have a different mindset, in that sense more like from marketing, you need to sell your idea. And even if you haven’t written one line of code, you almost need to sell that product. And I’m learning quite a lot in that direction.

Being less humble in that sense, which took me quite a lot of unlearning from a product manager role in that sense. What else? Yeah, it’s a learning thing as well. Four weeks ago, I wasn’t much into Blockchain. Now reading every day about what new token comes out, or what’s happening in the industry.

Lily Smith: 

So product managers are kind of notoriously busy, busy people. How are you doing all of the new stuff that you need to be doing? What does your day look like? Because you are making kind of key decisions on the product, talking to users, doing all of the things that a product manager would do, but then also having to think about investment, and also doing a lot of learning around some of the kind of areas that you need to know inside out in order to make make the business successful. So you know, are you working crazy hours? How are you juggling all of that?

Alexander Hipp: 

You really need to prioritise what’s the most important thing at the moment. Every Monday, the two of us decide, what we want to achieve in this week, and then we break it down every day to what’s happening today, completely similar to us to stand up in a bigger company. The thing is, what I learned is you get done stuff much faster than in a bigger company. Because you don’t have these like, stakeholders, you need to talk to before you can actually start working. So in a startup environment, you just do things, you try it out. If it doesn’t work, you probably have spent a couple of hours and you can go to the next thing. And we’re running quite a lot of experiments in that sense. So we don’t want to build something that takes us three or four weeks before shaping it.

Just two weeks ago, we decided, okay, we want to go into a new direction. And we said, okay, what can we build in three weeks and put it in front of real users, and then rather coming from a time constraint, we say ‘we want to build this, how long does it take us?’ That probably helps us a lot. In my day to day, it’s a lot of context switching. But as a product person, you’re used to it.

Lily Smith: 

And I suppose, like, a lot of people listening to this are gonna be thinking that it sounds amazing, because you don’t have any stakeholders, and there are no meetings, and you can just get stuff done. But on the flip side, you’re a small team. And sometimes it is nice having that support of other experts around you to bounce ideas off of and get feedback from. So how have you replaced that network? Who are you relying on for support in this very early startup mode?

Alexander Hipp: 

It’s super important. And probably I’m in a very lucky position. Because in both companies I’ve worked in product I met a lot of outstanding product people. I can always ask them for feedback. My girlfriend is a Senior PM as well. So she’s very honest, if something doesn’t look good, or work, right. So that also creates a source of getting feedback. And I think finding something with one of your best friends is a good idea because you know how the other person works. You can be very honest, and we are quite direct in giving feedback, in the sense of if we think something should be improved, it’s never personal. It’s the combination of both like having someone within the team that you can trust if it’s such a small team. Plus having a group of friends and former colleagues around you.

Randy Silver: 

So you said a moment ago, that you didn’t think you were that busy when you had a day job when you were working for somebody else. But you also have a side hustle with the PM Library. So either you have successfully delegated a lot of work, and which makes you an excellent prospect as a CEO, or you’re just not recognising how busy you were. But I’m curious, what lessons did you learn while founding and getting the PM Library up and running that you’ve taken into this?

Alexander Hipp: 

I think the biggest learning is that just because it works as a side hustle and makes a couple of bucks on the side with Amazon affiliate links, it doesn’t mean that it can easily become its own company where you can hire people. And that’s probably the biggest learning. The other learning is that when hiring people surround yourself with employees, friends, people that really want to do the work and get into a specific topic. They bring in their own ideas. They’re motivated, they all run in the same direction. And that was super key for us with the PM library.

Lily Smith: 

So thinking about it from a founder point of view, for those PMs, who are working in small startups, that very early stage, is there anything that you can think, as a founder yourself, and previously as a PM, that you would really want and look for in your first product manager? Are there any traits that you would really need in that person, in order for them to be the right person in this type of very early stage startup role?

Alexander Hipp: 

One of them is this output, and outcome orientation. So outcome over output, it doesn’t really matter what you’re building if it reaches the outcome of the very young startup that you want to. Because most of the code that you’re shipping in the first couple of months is going to be thrown away anyway. In later stages, as well, bigger companies probably also throw away code at one point. But I would say the earlier the company, the more code is being just thrown away, and it is just being built to prove something. So don’t think about scalability, don’t think about what happens if the 1 millionth person joins your product. Because if you only have 10, those questions you probably don’t need to answer.

Second, it’s all about speed. In bigger companies, you have these like six to eight weeks, where you should at least get a direction on where the company’s going. I think startups are way below these six to eight weeks and bigger companies, they probably feel quite happy in those six to eight-week cycles. Also, because they need to have this alignment between different companies. So if a product person worked for a bigger company before they would probably not struggle, but they would need to do a lot of unlearning to get to these like faster cycles and being comfortable with shipping less perfect stuff. At least that was for me, personally, a big hurdle, where I spend too much time sometimes on things that don’t really matter.

Lily Smith: 

Would you go back to product management, or do you feel like you kind of made that move into entrepreneurship and founding businesses and couldn’t go back to working for a business again?

Alexander Hipp: 

That’s a tough question. And I don’t know yet. I think when you started building something and creating something on your own, it’s hard to go back into this kind of preset environment, you can still make a difference. And you can still like, build bigger things. I would probably struggle for a bit. But I haven’t decided yet, I put some boundaries to myself also how long I want to try what I want to get to, like what success looks like for me. If we don’t get there, which I think in the startup world is supernormal, like some of the startups they make it, some others don’t, I would probably go back to bigger corporations. But what I said to myself already is that I really want to look for a company that does something valuable. There’s so many companies out there where I personally would say I don’t want to work for them. But I’d rather look into, like companies trying to take climate change and all these kinds of things. Like really important directions they’re going. So that’s probably the only kind of boundary I set for myself today. I’d rather work at a that does something valuable.

Randy Silver: 

What advice would you give to somebody who is listening to this who wants to go and found their own business? What’s one thing that you wish you knew a few months back?

Alexander Hipp: 

I think making the step from monthly fixed income to not getting a salary for a while, is quite hard. So if you have the chance, or if it’s possible, like start your idea as a side business like there is you can start exploring the problem space that you’re interested in, after work, like start talking to a couple of people within or who might have that problem, you can get a first idea and that kind of gives you a head start. When you then really decide, okay, I want to solve this problem. And I want to build a company around it without the hassle of completely jumping 100% from a fixed job into intrapreneurship. I never did it myself. But I heard other people saying that these kinds of accelerators could be a nice way also into learning a co-founder if you haven’t found someone yet you want to start with personally would probably only start a company with someone I knew before. But there might be others who might enjoy this. So yeah it sounds always super hard to make that step. But in the end, if it doesn’t work out, you can always go back and you probably learned so much in the time when you’re building your startup, that it’s sometimes way more valuable than staying another three, four or five months in that same job.

Randy Silver: 

Fantastic. Alex, thank you so much for being with us. That was really interesting chat.

Alexander Hipp: 

Thanks so much for having me.

Lily Smith: 

Thanks, Alex. That’s it from us today. We hope you enjoyed this week’s episode and feel all inspired.

Randy Silver: 

And if you decide to kick off a side project, we’d love to hear all about it. Tweet us an MTP pod.

Lily Smith: 

Don’t forget to LIKE subscribe, and if you’re feeling fancy, leave a review.

 

 

At some point, virtually every product person has had a run-in with their CEO and thought to themselves, "Hey, I could do a better job than they do.  Maybe I should start my own thing."  Most of us then think about all the things we'd have to take on (or about the lack of a steady paycheck) and decide to keep working for others. But some of us don't—we hand in our notice and follow the dream of starting something new. This week, we talked to Alexander Hipp — co-founder of Beyond, formerly of Xing and N26 — about why he made the decision, what it's been like so far, and what he'd advise anyone making a similar decision. Featured Links: Follow Alexander on LinkedIn and Twitter | Beyond - a community platform for Creators | The PM Library - be part of the first social book library for the Tech and Startup industry | Eco-friendly products at Riptide. Every week they chat with people in the know, covering the topics that matter to you - solving real problems, developing awesome products, building successful teams and developing careers. Find out more, subscribe, and access all episodes on The Product Experience homepage.

Episode transcript

Randy Silver:  Hey, Lily. Have you ever wanted to just throw it all away? Tell your boss to stuff it and start your own thing, you know, be a founder or co-founder of a new company. Lily Smith:  Yes, definitely. And I have begun a number of side projects that I hoped would blossom into fully-fledged startup. But none of them really took off for one reason or another. I even started a blog way back about all the ideas that I didn't have time to pursue. What about you, Randy? Randy Silver:  Yeah, you know, it's just not really for me, I've realised, even though we've co-founded the podcast, and I have my own company for consulting. I like helping other people solve problems. So I think that my startup ambitions are limited to side projects. But I'm totally fascinated by people who make the transition from Product Manager to Founder, Lily Smith:  Then it's a really good thing that we have one of those people here with us for a chat today. Alexander Hipp co-founded the pm library and spent a few years as Product Manager at Zing and N26. But he left behind his product career earlier this year to co-found a startup called Beyond with his best friend. Randy Silver:  And he's here today to tell us all about what he's learned so far. And what do you wish you knew before making the jump? Let's get right into it. Lily Smith:  The product experience is brought to you by mind the product. Randy Silver:  Every week, we talk to the best product people from around the globe about how we can improve our practice, and build products that people love. Lily Smith:  Browse on mind the product to catch up on past episodes, and to discover an extensive library of great content and videos, Randy Silver:  Browse for free, or become a mind the product member to unlock premium articles, unseen videos, AMA's roundtables, discount store conferences around the world training opportunities. Lily Smith:  Mind the product also offers free product tank meetups in more than 200 cities. And there's probably one near you. Randy Silver:  Alex, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. For those people who aren't familiar with you already who don't know beyond who don't know, the PM Library who don't know all the other stuff you've done. Can you just give us a quick intro? Tell us what you're up to now and how did you get into product? Alexander Hipp:  Hi, thanks a lot for having me. I got into product five, six years ago, straight out of university. I was doing five, six years ago of product management at university, the course was called Media and Communication Management. But in the end, there was a lot of psychology. How do people learn with new media? How does usability work, we had a bit of coding, we had a bit of designing. So it prepared me super well for starting as a PM, five, six years ago, and then directly straight out of university, I started acting in Hamburg, in Germany as a product manager, spent a couple of years and joined in 2016, the FinTech from Berlin, in Barcelona, two and a half years ago. And then at the beginning of the year, that's probably the part where we're talking about quite a lot today, I kind of jumped ship and started my own thing, co-founded something together with one of my best friends. With all respect to designers and developers out there, I wouldn't consider myself one. But with that history, I'm being responsible for the product side of Beyond. You mentioned the pm library, which is a side project. It grew from six friends together curating books for product people, if you haven't checked it out, feel free. There are roughly 600 books now that we're putting out there. A lot of authors you already had on the podcast. So there might be some quite nice gems in our selection. Randy Silver:  Yeah, I think we've got plenty of overlap. And there will be links to the pm library and everything else in the show notes. So don't be afraid to check that stuff out. Before we get into why you made the jump from working as a product manager, building other people's products to being a founder, just give us a little bit of background. Was Beyond your idea that your friends got into? Alexander Hipp:  Yeah, so Beyond actually was the next evolution of the PM library. The PM library was the six of us allowing others to put out their book recommendations. We called it on my shelves. And with beyond, we wanted to allow everyone out there. And not only books but content in general, that can be recommended to people who are interested in a specific topic. We did that for a couple of months, we learned a lot. And just two, three weeks ago, we decided to do kind of a pivot with the organisation. So we're still working on community building. But since we were building a content curation platform, we actually consume quite a lot of content, and learned a tonne about where the internet is going in the next years, where community building, in essence is going in the next years. And so we said, "Okay, we want to combine those two things, we want to still build something where a community could evolve where people share content recommendations with each other. But the problem is fundamentally more in how people build community and if they're owning part of that community." So we wanted to leverage technology with Blockchain to allow normal people because at the moment, it's let's face it, it's still quite techie. And it's still quite developer focused. So we want to allow normal people to build communities with rep three technology where it's so much easier for everyone to own a piece or to tokenize their the community to own a piece of that community. And yeah, that's, what we're currently investigating a bit more, interviewing a couple of people and having an MVP quite soon ready to be released. Randy Silver:  What made you decide that you wanted to take what had been a hobby and with the PM library and turn it into a business? Alexander Hipp:  The goal was not really to become a founder. In that sense, I see myself more as a creator, I always struggled with just kind of optimising existing products. So for me, it was always going one level deeper, I wanted to create something, I had the opportunity in both roles at things as well as in 2016, to start a couple of things from scratch, where there was completely Greenfield and we were allowed to explore. And I'm a product person who sends who felt much more in love with the problem, rather than with any solution like I don't, I'm not so attached to a potential solution. I'm rather want to dig into a problem and try to understand it, and then try to solve it together with a team. Depends on how big the team is, at the moment. It's just the two of us. But it's still fun. And I think there was kind of building up over time, it was not a decision I made from one day to the other, but it was more like building up over a couple of years, where he said, 'Okay, I really want to learn first how bigger companies or how tech companies work, how they're being set up.' And I think it's still fundamental to be at one point successful, even if you're just two people, you should know kind of the basics and how it works. And then, at the beginning of the year, the timing was just right, with my best friend just coming out of accelerator in Berlin. And we said, okay, let's, let's explore this, this opportunity with the pm hybrid dot 2.0. At that point. And since then, I think I learned more in this year than in kind of the 20 years before probably, and it's fun. You can do whatever you want, you have to do whatever you think is best. So, yeah. Lily Smith:  And what about in terms of investment? How have you managed to fund it so far? And do you know what you need to do in order to get it to a point where it gets funded if it's not funded already? Alexander Hipp:  Yeah, so we spent a while building our pitch deck for the first idea of beyond. We found one angel investor from Berlin who believed in us and we're working together with them now. We wanted to make it bigger, but also kind of a reason for pivoting was that we found out that probably the idea we had was too much of a moonshot in the sense of the unit economics, plus content discovery. Monetizing content itself is already hard. And we see a lot of publishers struggling with this, well-established publishers, content discovery where you're like selling the curation part is probably even more difficult. So there was kind of also a reason for, going a bit in a prosumer direction and away from the consumer direction. We had the feeling it's easier, at least in Europe, as it seems. And I'm not an expert in this, but it seems to be way easier to find investors for prosumers, or b2b. Now, with web three coming up and us building a product in web three, there are also different ways in how you can get money from outside. So we're exploring a couple of different directions at the moment. Lily Smith:  And you mentioned a couple of things there. A moonshot and unit economics, just kind of unpacking some of the business terminologies for those that haven't, and aren't familiar with those terms. What do you mean by that? Alexander Hipp:  So with moonshot, I think it's coming from Google, or at least, it's being connected a lot with Google where everything they're doing should end up in a moonshot, where the risk is super high. But if you make it work, and if you gain a couple of million users, it's a huge opportunity in that sense, because of the fact that the risk is super high. It's also super risky for investors. And you can still have the best product out there, you can have the best team out there. But sometimes being successful with a moonshot company, or with a moonshot product, also depends a bit on luck, I would even say, like who, in our case, with a content curation platform, which probably would have been connected quite closely to who are the people recommending content on our platform, if we would get an Elon Musk, recommending content, it's probably a different game, than if we have, like, a lot of people who just started out in a specific topic or don't have a following at all. So at least with the focus we had in mind, we wanted to rather go towards the Elon Musk kind of direction, which makes it risky. And that's kind of the moonshot. The unit economics, in that sense, is just a formula on how much money you need to spend to acquire customers. And then, in the end, how much can you make with these customers? How much do they spend? Randy Silver:  So you've spent your career before this? Building Products as part of big teams, you know, building consensus doing stakeholder management, doing all kinds of things that are not day-to-day building? And now you're sitting in a different chair, it's just the two of you. What's the biggest surprise so far? What are you spending time on that you never thought that you would end up doing? Alexander Hipp:  And it's a really good question. And I'm probably in a quite lucky position. Because during my studies, I spent five or six years in a very small digital agency in my hometown. And there was three people, the two bosses and me. So in the end, I had to do everything already with design and coding and all these kinds of things. It probably didn't have the label at that point. But I was used to kind of being a generalist in different things. And never really got an expert in development or design. I never wanted to be because I kind of like being in the centre. As a product person, you need to embrace this, like you're working in a big company, you have your experts, but you need to talk in the same language to them. So they understand you and you understand them. But what's different now in compared to Xing and N26 is probably I have way fewer meetings, which is incredibly awesome. We do have a stand up every day. And we do have maybe one or two user interviews days where we talk to people about their problems. But that's it. You don't spend so much time just talking about stuff rather than doing things. My co-founder is doing an incredible job when it comes to building the product from the development side. And I try to help with everything I know from the design and from the product side. We learned in the last couple of months that we are probably missing a bit of these commercial background people at the moment. And that's the reason why both of us are kind of trying to learn as much as possible in that direction to cover that. But yeah, it's, it's not so different to what I was doing before still sitting in figma, and designing some things. Randy Silver:  Okay, so you answered my next question. And it also explains why use the term unit economics earlier. But what's the thing that you're you're spending time on that you never did before. What's been the biggest surprise, it's something you now have to do. Alexander Hipp:  It's actually not the unit economics. Like at N26, there was a lot of discussion about if the product people should own their unit economics, and I spent quite a lot of time working on cost reduction, etc. So that's not completely new. I think the fundraising part is probably something that I imagined to be completely different. Because I'm a very honest person. So if something is broken, I would tell everyone and try to find the solution together. In fundraising, you need to have a different mindset, in that sense more like from marketing, you need to sell your idea. And even if you haven't written one line of code, you almost need to sell that product. And I'm learning quite a lot in that direction. Being less humble in that sense, which took me quite a lot of unlearning from a product manager role in that sense. What else? Yeah, it's a learning thing as well. Four weeks ago, I wasn't much into Blockchain. Now reading every day about what new token comes out, or what's happening in the industry. Lily Smith:  So product managers are kind of notoriously busy, busy people. How are you doing all of the new stuff that you need to be doing? What does your day look like? Because you are making kind of key decisions on the product, talking to users, doing all of the things that a product manager would do, but then also having to think about investment, and also doing a lot of learning around some of the kind of areas that you need to know inside out in order to make make the business successful. So you know, are you working crazy hours? How are you juggling all of that? Alexander Hipp:  You really need to prioritise what's the most important thing at the moment. Every Monday, the two of us decide, what we want to achieve in this week, and then we break it down every day to what's happening today, completely similar to us to stand up in a bigger company. The thing is, what I learned is you get done stuff much faster than in a bigger company. Because you don't have these like, stakeholders, you need to talk to before you can actually start working. So in a startup environment, you just do things, you try it out. If it doesn't work, you probably have spent a couple of hours and you can go to the next thing. And we're running quite a lot of experiments in that sense. So we don't want to build something that takes us three or four weeks before shaping it. Just two weeks ago, we decided, okay, we want to go into a new direction. And we said, okay, what can we build in three weeks and put it in front of real users, and then rather coming from a time constraint, we say 'we want to build this, how long does it take us?' That probably helps us a lot. In my day to day, it's a lot of context switching. But as a product person, you're used to it. Lily Smith:  And I suppose, like, a lot of people listening to this are gonna be thinking that it sounds amazing, because you don't have any stakeholders, and there are no meetings, and you can just get stuff done. But on the flip side, you're a small team. And sometimes it is nice having that support of other experts around you to bounce ideas off of and get feedback from. So how have you replaced that network? Who are you relying on for support in this very early startup mode? Alexander Hipp:  It's super important. And probably I'm in a very lucky position. Because in both companies I've worked in product I met a lot of outstanding product people. I can always ask them for feedback. My girlfriend is a Senior PM as well. So she's very honest, if something doesn't look good, or work, right. So that also creates a source of getting feedback. And I think finding something with one of your best friends is a good idea because you know how the other person works. You can be very honest, and we are quite direct in giving feedback, in the sense of if we think something should be improved, it's never personal. It's the combination of both like having someone within the team that you can trust if it's such a small team. Plus having a group of friends and former colleagues around you. Randy Silver:  So you said a moment ago, that you didn't think you were that busy when you had a day job when you were working for somebody else. But you also have a side hustle with the PM Library. So either you have successfully delegated a lot of work, and which makes you an excellent prospect as a CEO, or you're just not recognising how busy you were. But I'm curious, what lessons did you learn while founding and getting the PM Library up and running that you've taken into this? Alexander Hipp:  I think the biggest learning is that just because it works as a side hustle and makes a couple of bucks on the side with Amazon affiliate links, it doesn't mean that it can easily become its own company where you can hire people. And that's probably the biggest learning. The other learning is that when hiring people surround yourself with employees, friends, people that really want to do the work and get into a specific topic. They bring in their own ideas. They're motivated, they all run in the same direction. And that was super key for us with the PM library. Lily Smith:  So thinking about it from a founder point of view, for those PMs, who are working in small startups, that very early stage, is there anything that you can think, as a founder yourself, and previously as a PM, that you would really want and look for in your first product manager? Are there any traits that you would really need in that person, in order for them to be the right person in this type of very early stage startup role? Alexander Hipp:  One of them is this output, and outcome orientation. So outcome over output, it doesn't really matter what you're building if it reaches the outcome of the very young startup that you want to. Because most of the code that you're shipping in the first couple of months is going to be thrown away anyway. In later stages, as well, bigger companies probably also throw away code at one point. But I would say the earlier the company, the more code is being just thrown away, and it is just being built to prove something. So don't think about scalability, don't think about what happens if the 1 millionth person joins your product. Because if you only have 10, those questions you probably don't need to answer. Second, it's all about speed. In bigger companies, you have these like six to eight weeks, where you should at least get a direction on where the company's going. I think startups are way below these six to eight weeks and bigger companies, they probably feel quite happy in those six to eight-week cycles. Also, because they need to have this alignment between different companies. So if a product person worked for a bigger company before they would probably not struggle, but they would need to do a lot of unlearning to get to these like faster cycles and being comfortable with shipping less perfect stuff. At least that was for me, personally, a big hurdle, where I spend too much time sometimes on things that don't really matter. Lily Smith:  Would you go back to product management, or do you feel like you kind of made that move into entrepreneurship and founding businesses and couldn't go back to working for a business again? Alexander Hipp:  That's a tough question. And I don't know yet. I think when you started building something and creating something on your own, it's hard to go back into this kind of preset environment, you can still make a difference. And you can still like, build bigger things. I would probably struggle for a bit. But I haven't decided yet, I put some boundaries to myself also how long I want to try what I want to get to, like what success looks like for me. If we don't get there, which I think in the startup world is supernormal, like some of the startups they make it, some others don't, I would probably go back to bigger corporations. But what I said to myself already is that I really want to look for a company that does something valuable. There's so many companies out there where I personally would say I don't want to work for them. But I'd rather look into, like companies trying to take climate change and all these kinds of things. Like really important directions they're going. So that's probably the only kind of boundary I set for myself today. I'd rather work at a that does something valuable. Randy Silver:  What advice would you give to somebody who is listening to this who wants to go and found their own business? What's one thing that you wish you knew a few months back? Alexander Hipp:  I think making the step from monthly fixed income to not getting a salary for a while, is quite hard. So if you have the chance, or if it's possible, like start your idea as a side business like there is you can start exploring the problem space that you're interested in, after work, like start talking to a couple of people within or who might have that problem, you can get a first idea and that kind of gives you a head start. When you then really decide, okay, I want to solve this problem. And I want to build a company around it without the hassle of completely jumping 100% from a fixed job into intrapreneurship. I never did it myself. But I heard other people saying that these kinds of accelerators could be a nice way also into learning a co-founder if you haven't found someone yet you want to start with personally would probably only start a company with someone I knew before. But there might be others who might enjoy this. So yeah it sounds always super hard to make that step. But in the end, if it doesn't work out, you can always go back and you probably learned so much in the time when you're building your startup, that it's sometimes way more valuable than staying another three, four or five months in that same job. Randy Silver:  Fantastic. Alex, thank you so much for being with us. That was really interesting chat. Alexander Hipp:  Thanks so much for having me. Lily Smith:  Thanks, Alex. That's it from us today. We hope you enjoyed this week's episode and feel all inspired. Randy Silver:  And if you decide to kick off a side project, we'd love to hear all about it. Tweet us an MTP pod. Lily Smith:  Don't forget to LIKE subscribe, and if you're feeling fancy, leave a review.