Venture Capitalist at Theory

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2 minute read / Dec 2, 2019 /

Product Launches Become the Operating Cadence of a Startup

In November, two spectacles occurred. The first is Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual event and the largest software conference in the world. The second is Elon Musk announcing the Tesla Cybertruck. Benioff and Musk use these events strategically. They engender an operational cadence to Salesforce and Tesla.

There’s no feeling like launch day. It’s the day you reveal to the world the sumtotal of your team’s efforts for weeks or months. That’s how I felt as a PM - a huge sense of urgency, anxiety and motivation. I imagine this is how every founder fats on the eve of demo day.

Launch day requires collaboration across teams. Marketing must prepare the story and materials. PR readies articles and interviews. Engineering builds the product. SRE ensures it stays up. Legal must sign off. Sales and support prepare their pitches. Success requires massive cross-functional collaboration.

Product launches at Dreamforce and Tesla press days create an operational cadence and alignment because the entire business must be ready on a particular day.

Dazzling annual launches are one tactic. At the other end of the spectrum are monthly releases. One well known SaaS unicorn focused itself on monthly product launches. The first Tuesday of every month, they launched a new product or feature. The company sustained this cadence for two years.

The benefits of such a strategy were many. First, the company sustained a torrid pace of product development for a long time achieving more than most thought possible. Second, the market perceived the startup as fast moving and innovative. In a competitive market, they leapt from a distant second to a tie. Third, the strategy instilled anxiety within the competition. What might launch this month? Fourth, the company works as a unit because all focus on this goal. It was a rallying cry.

There are critiques of this method. Sustain a frenetic cadence for too long, employees burnout. Teams may launch products that don’t exist (Salesforce Einstein) or aren’t ready (unbreakable windows that shatter).

But, the product launch can be a powerful management technique to align and accelerate teams.

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