Office Hours: From PM to GM. I've worked at Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr. I'm Bo Ren.Featured

Hi everyone!I’m a product manager, startup advisor, investor and writer. By day I’m the Head of Ecosystem and Assistant GM in NY at Samsung NEXT. I’ve also worked in product at tech companies like Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr, as well as smaller startups like SigFig. I also write about humanizing tech, behavioral science, product management, and creating ecosystem change. I advise and angel invest in pre-seed and seed product-driven startups. I was born in China, raised in Portland, Oregon, and now live in Brooklyn, NY.Fun fact about me: My research scientist dad named me after a semiprecious semiconductor on his circuit board 🤓 Ask me about product management, angel investing, my experiences working at big and small tech companies, or something else (including my skincare addiction)!
Excited to have you join us, Bo! Bo will answer your questions on Thursday – she might not have time to answer all of them, so upvote the ones you most want her to answer with emojis. Thanks, all!
Hi Bo! What was _your_ definition of success as a PM in those companies?
Hi Yaz! I think a great PM is a janitor, arm chair psychologist, researcher, and conductor of a team. You keep your team of designers/engs/marketers/xfn stakeholders as happy as possible while marching in the right direction. You have a strong vision and paint it in high fidelity while corraling the team to follow a north star. My own marker for a great PM is someone who inspires others to do their best work and empowers their teammates to feel a sense of possibilities. A good test is when you're gone on vacay your team doesn't fall apart. I know I've done a good job when an engineer or designer tells me they will follow me to the ends of the earth or join a company I start. Hope that helps!
Hi Bo, I'd love to hear about how you got started as a startup investor and advisor, and what you think makes people successful in those roles. I'm based in NYC as well, and recently started angel investing and advising. Appreciate the tips, thanks!
I've been blogging about my path into PM from a nontraditional liberal arts background since 2012. I've always been a writer at heart and enjoy sharing my thoughts and opinions online. Through my writing people got to know how I think and started reaching out to me for investment and advising opportunities, usually founders who didn't fit the SV mold and came from diverse backgrounds like myself. I also started angel investing in the FB RPM (rotational product management) alumni. That helped me develop a muscle for vetting startup investments from a PM and investor perspective. In 2017 - 2018 I was chosen by Angelist to be an emerging fund manager and attempted to raise my own fund investing in PMs turned first time founders which gave me a good exposure to LPs, funds, and deal flow. Long story short...that demo fund didn't work out for me but it gave me a great network of founders, investors, and LPs. I ended up meeting over 100+ VCs and founders in that period!
Hi Bo, Great to see you here :)Would you have any recommended resources for non-PM founders who want to learn and understand the field before hiring/defining the scope of a future PM role?Also, when is the right time for an early stage start-up to hire a PM.That would be super helpful, thank you!
Great questions @Lamiaa! I have thought hard about this problem. I recently gave a talk at Web Summit about "How to Build a Product-Driven Company" and make your first PM hire. Once that's up, I'll post it on Twitter (follow me at @bosefina). A couple of pointers on making your first PM hire: - Introspect and know yourself: assess your strengths and weaknesses as a founder by conducting a SWOT analysis of yourself. This PM should be someone who is a thought partner with you and an equal so make sure you're ready to "give up the legos". The PM-founder relationship is sacred.- Make sure your company has the right product DNA: a first PM can be a huge organ rejection if the founders or other founding members are constantly undermining their executive decision-making power. Ensure that product owners have a say in the product and that the PM will have the support of the org b/c as a PM you are a function of your team and a f(0) = zero. - Read this blog post by my friend Jason Evanish on why you want to be the second PM first: Unfortunately, I have been that sacrificial lamb as the first PM at a startup :'( - Lastly, make sure the role is a *real* PM role, not a product marketer or a swiss army knife to solve all your business problems. Many PM job postings are just glorified project managers which is a disservice to the PM you hire. Hope that helps!
Thank you Bo! That's super helpful. Also, I tried to email you but got an error message. What is the best way to reach you?
What is the most regretful thing in your career?Edit: In your Twitter posts you mentioned about "starting our own thing too early". I guess this is one of the things that you regret doing(?). Could you share more on it?
Hi @torizhao! Haha I can be quite emo when I tweet. Thanks for catching that whimsical thought :P My biggest regret is doubting myself for so long as a nontechnical PM. I beat myself up so much in my 20s for not being a Stanford CS major and feeling like I had to overcompensate for my weaknesses instead of playing by my strengths. My biggest regret is letting male engineers and naysayers neg me into doubting myself and playing into the negative voices/inner critic in my head. That being said I did attempt my own fund too early. I went in doe-eyed with naive thinking I could raise $10M without having connections to deep pockets like family offices and foundations. I don't regret trying to build something out of nothing without the privilege of a trust fund or a daddy's connections as a first-generation immigrant. I love this advice by Gary Chou from Orbital, "sometimes you have to build the network in order to do the thing you want to do." Even though I didn't know what I was up against, I put myself out there, and learned a lot in the process of failing to fundraise $10M. I met my biggest heros in VC like Ann-Miura Ko from Floodgate and found mentors in people who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. I now feel much more confident about my own risk appetite and hope that I will try again one day with the right levers, supporters, cofounder, and timing in place.
Thx for contributing… And I love that name. But more importantly it’s a bond between you two which is so cool. I guess my only question for you is what would it take to get you to join my startup? 😂. We are solving some amazing problems but it’s a long road and we are going to need the best of the best and I guess people who’ve been there before. If that’s not an option let me know what kinds of Angel investments you’re doing… Maybe an advisory w/b possible. Sorry to be so bold but that’s what we women entrepreneurs have to do… We have to get more comfortable with asking no matter the odds of a yes. ❤️✌🏼
I love this energy @joclark! You gotta shoot your shot ;) I would love to learn more about your startup. Feel free to email me your pitch deck and blurb to [email protected]. Look forward to hearing from you!
seperate thread:what skincare products do you use and what is your regimen???!!! I got very into korean beauty products lately but would love new recommendations!
Love this question! Here is my ITG Shelfie interview: Stuff I'm loving currently is Pai oil cleanser, Environ retinol, and my Biologique Recherche p50 PGM 400 toner (the p50V is too harsh fo me and I hate the smell of phenol). I also LOVE anything by CosRX's line and currently use their snail mucin essence with the Isntree hyaluronic acid toner that I alternate with my p50.
highest ROI resource to improve PM / growth chops?background: vc finance + software eng.ROI defined by (improvement in quality and speed of decision / time and $ spent on getting better at PM).Goal: improve my probability of success as a future founder (or future CEO of some major product line).I like marty cagan's book but was hoping for something more immersive / hands-on like a bootcamp / mentorship training kind of thing.
Hey Bo! Thanks for taking the time out to answer some of our questions -- when looking to invest in pre-seed companies, what are a few things that would make you invest in a company out? What are somethings that would make you walk away from investing in a pre-seed company? Lagniappe: what is your favorite skin essence?Thanks! -JB
If you were to ask an investor how they make their own decision you'll get a very different answer from everyone. Investing is one of the most subjective roles out there. For me, I try to balance gut intuition with analytical rigor: 1. Do I believe in the founder and trust them intrinsically? At the pre-seed stage, you're betting on the founder and their personal judgments, psyche, and track record to navigate the turbulence of an early stage company 2. What is the proprietary moat? Is the moat in the product, community, or brand? 3. What are ways to kill the company? My mentor Ann-Miura Ko likes to play the game of "trap the founder" through a series of hypothetical scenarios. If the founder is smarter than you they will outsmart your line of questioning. A good team in a bad market still dies. A mediocre team in a good market can still win. There are so many ways for a company to die so I like to play worst scenarios to derisk the investment and also futureproof the company with the founder. I will walk away from a deal almost immediately if I find out the founder has lied about something in their pitch deck or in person. I'm the queen of back channeling and usually can sniff out BS pretty quickly with my own gut intuition and confering w/ with my network. And my favorite essence is by Missha! I love their fermented essence which is a dupe of the SK II essence. It has more pitera ingredients in there than the SK II formulation and a fraction of the price!
Hi Bo, thank you for making time!Reading your LinkedIn recommendations you are truly a "product polymath" with knowledge ranging from product vision, process, data to design. How did you build up all these varying skillsets? Is it mostly through work and people you worked with? Are there any resources you'd recommend? Honest question: how much time do you spend working during an average week? I would love to become a product polymath like you and want an honest expectation for myself for how much time I'd spend on it. Do you ever feel like you are actually more talented than average?
Awwww shucks @jessziyuezhang! You can sure make a girl blush. I've always identified as a multipotentialite (great TED talk btw) and found it hard for me to specialize as a child in school. What I lack in specialization I make up with childhood curiosity and an ability to immerse myself in one topic to become a conversant subject matter expert. I think this skill is called "just-in-time-learning". Honestly, the best resource for me is reading...reading everything from fiction to scientific publications to blog posts by smart people. I also realized pretty early on that I'm not the smartest person in the room but I can tap into the brain trust of smarter people than me from Twitter and my network. I always like being the slowest one in a fast pack so I can keep learning from others. You can find some of my self-edification writing here: work weeks range A LOT throughout my career. I've pulled 100 weeks at seed stage startups (which I don't recommend doing) and now have a much more balanced work week that ebbs and flows to my schedule. Recently, I've been working through some chronic illness which means I need to work within an energy budget and find ways to be efficient every day. I use to wake up wanting to boil the ocean and now I just try to knock out the 2 or 3 most important things every day. At the end of the day it's not about the # of hours you work but rather what you can deliver. I'm a strong believer that you need rest and boredom to come up with creative ideas!
Hi @bosefina love that you write about humanizing tech, behavioral science, product management, and creating ecosystem change--many of my coaching students are VERY interested in those areas in tech. Any favorite articles / blog posts of yours on those topics?
I am very impressed by your profile 🚀 I would love to hear more about your experience working for large tech companies! And any advice on how to apply for a job at Facebook? Thank you!
Hello Bo,Would you be willing to give some advice on getting into product management, getting PM Internships?Thanks@bosefina