Transitioning from Start-Up to Scale-Up
Mar 15 2023

The Journey from Start-Up to Scale-Up.

Transitioning from a start-up to a scale-up can be challenging for product managers as the environment, culture, and ways of working change.

We spoke to two remarkable product professionals who have experience transitioning from start-up to scale-up and bring you their learnings in this article.

In a recent episode on The Product Edge podcast, we sat down with two remarkable women: Cheryl Gledhill, Director of Product at Culture Amp (and at Zip Co prior to that), and Lauren McCormack, Chief Product Officer at Zip Co. Cheryl and Lauren gave us some insights into the Start-up to Scale-up journey.


What are the main challenges Product Managers face when transitioning from start-ups to scale-ups?

Cheryl and Lauren classified these challenges as:

  1. Optimising the existing product for continued growth while seeking new directions and features for the product.
  2. Deliberate communication becomes crucial as the organisation grows larger, leading to more meetings, sign-offs, and communication. At the same time, moving quickly and making autonomous decisions are crucial, and hence product managers must learn how to balance these two needs.
  3. Decision-making in large organisations can be slow, leading to a significant learning curve, and product managers must be willing to adapt to the new ways of working. For instance, in a start-up, communication can be more informal, while in larger organisations deliberate communication and documentation are necessary.
  4. The risk appetite is also different, and product managers must learn how to adjust accordingly.


Some learnings about working in a company going through a steep growth phase:

In the world of product management, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each company has its own culture and regulations that need consideration.

As a product manager, you must adapt to different situations and learn to work within the framework of your company. Coming from a start-up, it’s important to learn the rules and regulations of a more established company before making changes or taking risks. It’s also crucial to have an appetite for experimentation, like many successful tech companies, but you must also understand the guardrails in place to avoid breaking rules or causing harm.

Product management is a dynamic and diverse field that will continue to evolve. Embracing the diversity of roles and approaches within product management is the key to success when scaling up.


For more insights, listen to this podcast episode in full, subscribe, or listen to The Product Edge on your preferred podcast app.

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