Welcome to Product For The Win (ProductFTW): a unique newsletter about product management in technology startups. ProductFTW is exclusively advice about how to get shit done because, in the end, product management is about shipping valuable software. Everything else is noise.
We're on a mission to share the nitty-gritty, real-world insights to help you rock it as a product leader. We're not here to preach from the ivory towers of big tech giants. We're all about keeping it real and relatable for founders and product leaders in the trenches of startups and smaller companies.
Why we started this blog
So, why are we doing this? Well, let's start with a little confession. We've been inspired by many of the great names in the world of product management. Those folks are fantastic, no doubt about it. But here's the kicker: we often found ourselves nodding to their wisdom while thinking, "That's great, but how on earth does this apply to us in our role?"
We get it. It's not that we didn't appreciate the insights from the big shots, but sometimes it felt like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. While impressive, their advice, experiences, and stories didn't always align with the realities we face as product managers in smaller companies and startups.
So, we decided to do something about it. We're here to bring you a fresh perspective, one that's firmly rooted in the real-world challenges and opportunities that you encounter.
The ProductFTW Team
ProductFTW is brought to you by Totavi, LLC and friends.
Matthew is the Founder of Totavi, a boutique product strategy consulting firm. He started his journey into building technology products in middle school in the mid-1990s, working at technology startups after school and during the summer through his first business, a web design and network administration company. Matthew's first real job as a Product Manager was at Green Dot Corporation in 2006, as employee number 65 or so. At Green Dot, Matthew learned everything he could about retail and payments, working with some of the world's largest retailers to build real-time cash acceptance networks.
Since then, Matthew has started two venture-backed companies (and sold them) as a founder and CEO, worked as a Chief Product Officer at a billion-dollar public company and a 100-person Series B startup, and held many other product roles. Along the way, he has been fortunate to work with many brilliant product managers, including the other voices in this newsletter.
Ellen is Vice President at Totavi, joining the firm after more than a decade in progressively growing roles as a Product Manager, Director, and VP of Product. Ellen transitioned from a product operations role at Bankrate to a product manager and joined Matthew's nascent product team at the company. She has since worked as a founder, a startup's only PM, a data PM in a huge organization, and a product leader in a startup.
Ellen's broad experience enables her to understand the unique challenges of zero-to-one products and how to rebuild applications and enhance performance and capability. She has quickly become the go-to resource for accurate knowledge and effective output in every organization.
Zach is Vice President of Product at Perigon, an early-stage startup providing real-time AI-powered contextual intelligence. Zach started his career as a software engineer at AT&T. (Matthew and Zach worked there simultaneously but didn't know each other!) Zach was a formal product owner for the first time at Heartland Payment Systems prior to joining Matthew's team at Bankrate in 2016.
Since Bankrate, Zach has co-founded a company (with Ellen), led products for The Points Guy, and worked with the rest of the ProductFTW team at Apto Payments prior to moving to Perigon. Lucky for us, Zach isn't a consultant and brings a voice around real decisions he is making in early-stage product management on a daily basis.
Jessica is a Principal Product Manager at Totavi, working with our clients to implement new solutions. Jessica's startup career began in product marketing, and she shifted to her first Product Manager role at Wallaby Financial, where she was the first PM hired by Matthew. As the core Wallaby product owner, Jessica showed her execution capabilities in building an award-winning consumer mobile personal finance app.
Jessica has honed her broader skills outside of work as a leader in the Junior League and took a detour in core business operations as Director, Business Operations at Apto Payments, where the team last reunited. Outside of work, Jessica finds creative inspiration in pottery-making and volunteers as a tax preparer for transitional-age foster youth.