Joining Connect Ventures as Product Partner

Posted: 6 Sep 2021

What it will mean for the firm, the founders in our portfolio, and me

Hi, I’m Graham, Connect’s new Product Partner. If building product wasn’t my job, it would be my hobby…

I’ve spent the last 10-or-so years helping tech companies grow by building great products. I cut my teeth at TransferWise and Deliveroo, then took those learnings to other startups as both an employee and advisor. I’ve absolutely loved my time building products, and if it weren’t my job it would be my hobby.

Earlier this year, I came across the Product Partner role at Connect and made the leap to apply my skills and experience in a different way.

Ask me anything, I’m here to help

Fast forward to now, I’ve joined Connect to help our founders build products better and faster. We back exceptional founders to build exceptional products, and there will always be areas where they need support.

That’s where I come in. I’ll be helping our founders with areas like strategy, processes, hiring, org structure, and generally accelerating their understanding of the product world. This will be a combination of working with individual founders on specific topics, creating content for the whole portfolio, and having regular office hours.

Here are some topics that consistently come up with founders:

  • When to hire, and how to find exceptional product people
  • How to have an autonomous, empowered product culture
  • How to balance speed with great craftsmanship and UX
  • How to measure product progress
  • How to put product at the heart of the company

These are all important to get right, and I can hopefully save our founders from the trial-and-error of doing it alone.

I’ll also be on the lookout for strong product founders as they either transition to entrepreneurship or raise seed rounds. If this sounds like you, my email is below!

Building the right foundation for success

Getting product foundations right has to be done from the start. The right conditions for success require:

  • people (talented and motivated)
  • processes (flexible and scalable)
  • culture (autonomous and inspiring)
  • early product (solid foundation to build from)

Changing these once you’re in scaling mode is challenging. Employees get set in their ways and norms are established. You hire people that are great at a specific way of working, and promote those that do it well. Steering the ship once it’s moving is slow, and often painful.

Also, the stakes are simply higher at an early stage. The wrong VP Product at Series B might set you back by 6 months. At seed, it could kill the company. Those early people, processes, and culture chart the course for many years to come.

I’ll be sharing my experience of building products to help our founders get this right from the beginning. And wherever I’m not the best person to help, I’ll use my network to find someone that can.

It’s important to note that there’s never a silver bullet or generically “correct” way to do things. But there are ways of approaching product problems that have been proven to work time and again, and I’ve tried most of them more than once.

Why I’m so excited to take on this role

It’s incredibly high leverage:

As a product person, you’re always on the lookout for the highest leverage areas — the places where you can have the most impact for the effort you put in. This role feels as high-leverage as they come, for two main reasons.

Firstly, I’ll be working with startups from an early stage. As an operator, you’re constrained by several factors: your existing product, company vision, and business model. Connect makes seed-stage investments, so I’ll be working on problems further upstream, and hopefully help founders build better companies from the get-go.

Secondly, I can be a real value multiplier. As an operator, you add value exclusively to one company, and your time is spent on a mixture of high, medium, and low impact tasks. With this role, I’ll be adding value to many companies, whilst focussing exclusively on the most important and impactful product opportunities.

I believe in Connect’s mission:

Our mission is to back the best product-led software companies at seed stage, and the ambitious founders who build them. We do this through financial investment, and ongoing support throughout the company journey.

Connect believes that great product companies make the best investments. They have lower costs, faster acquisition (through product-led growth and referrals), and better retention. We also believe that product people (whether PMs, designers, researchers, or engineers) make strong founders.

This resonates deeply with me. Product people are used to talking to customers, prioritising, balancing speed and quality, and operating in extreme uncertainty — which are all part of being a founder too. At the formative stages of a company, founders are de-facto product managers so hopefully they can benefit from my experience.

The early stages where someone decides to become an entrepreneur are a really big leap. There’s emotional and financial uncertainty, and often huge opportunity cost. Being able to help founders at that point of their journey is going to be an extremely rewarding venture (pun fully intended).

Learning opportunity:

As all people, I have a few blind spots, and working at Connect will be an amazing opportunity to fill them.

I’m really excited to learn from the founders in our portfolio. We have an active Founders Network that supports each other, ranging from more established companies to pre-product startups. Having proximity to these people as they work and helping them grow their companies will drastically accelerate my learning about how to found and grow companies.

Give something back:

I’ve been lucky enough to work at companies where you learn a lot. High-growth companies have far more problems to solve than stagnant ones, and it’s amazing how much you pick up on the way. One week you’ll be focusing on scalability challenges, the next on finding product-market-fit for a specific segment, and the next on increasing your hiring pipeline. These challenges have given me a lot of experience that can be useful to our portfolio companies.

I’ve also been supported in my career by some highly talented people; as friends, colleagues, advisors and mentors. They’ve supercharged both my personal and professional growth.

Working at Connect is a great opportunity to give something back, and help others in turn.

Let’s go!

If you’re either a founder raising a seed round, or a product person considering hitting out on your own, I’d love to chat! I’m happy to share what I know, make intros, and generally help however I can. Drop me a line on [email protected].