Update after a break
What I've been up to and what's coming
Hello! Ev here. If you subscribed to The Product Thinker between February and May this year, you noticed that I haven’t written much.
I’ve planned a series of posts focusing on web3, entrepreneurship, 0-to-1 product strategy, and a little bit on life design.
But first, here’s what I’ve been up to since February.
Searching for a better work life
In November 2021, I switched teams at Unity. Initially, my new role seemed like a fit, but by February it became clear that the product didn’t align with my skills or interests. We started out with a 0-to-1 bottom up B2B product hypothesis, pivoted it toward heavy Enterprise use cases, and then eventually scrapped everything and turned the product into an internal tool.
Since I don’t work on internal tools or Enterprise products in principle, I felt like it was time to say goodbye. Not knowing whether another internal move would be possible, I started looking for opportunities outside of the company.
I prepped for a few FAANG interviews but failed all of them despite hundreds of hours of mock interviews. This was unnecessarily stressful, and I decided to avoid companies that practice this style of interviews. (More about this in a another newsletter.)
After the FAANG fiasco, I spoke with other B2C tech companies whose products most of us use daily. The brand names were fantastic, but none of their roles were compelling enough to continue the interview process.
Eventually, a Unity hiring manager who I knew well had an opening on his team, and I joined their mission. While I can’t share the details of I’m working on, it’s somewhat related to web3.
Figuring out my startup interests
I don’t intend to build a decades-long career in product management. In fact, being an employee for my entire life sounds like nightmare. I became a PM because this role prepares me to become a founder better than most other roles in tech. There’s one question that I’ve struggled to answer for years, though: “What kind of company do I want to start?”
As a tech generalist, I’m broadly interested in a variety of technologies and products. I worked on everything from consumer dating apps to B2B SaaS. If you want to maximize your career options as an employee, then having a range is great. But if you want to start a company, you need focus, and I lacked it for years.
Recently, I got rejected from the OnDeck Founders program. It probably had something to do with the fact that instead of picking a clear area of focus as a founder, in my application I chose a bunch of disjointed industries which I was interested. I basically told them that I’m cool to work on anything from AI to Blockchain, to B2B SaaS, Climate tech, and Hardware.
“Okay dude, you don’t now what you want,” must have thought the person who reviewed my application before hitting the Reject button.
This rejection sparked a realization that as a founder who doesn’t focus on a specific industry niche, I’m bound to waste effort — and my precious time on Earth along with it.
I figured that my success as an early stage founder depends on three factors: focus, effort, and luck. While it’s impossible to control luck, with enough focus and effort I can find the right combination of market and problem to solve. Worst case scenario here is that I could build a lifestyle business and become an Indie Hacker, which isn’t too shabby. :) And so, I focused.
Deciding to focus on web3
In November of 2010, I sat in my dorm in Tokyo reading about Bitcoin. It was late evening, and I was tired after a day of work at my research lab. I gulped some Asahi beer and decided to not buy BTC, even though it was priced at $10 only.
In my defense, there was no clear way to buy BTC then: I’d need to set up a PayPal account which I didn’t have and figure out how to use it without a credit card, which I also didn’t have. After all of that fintech wrangling, I’d have to transfer money to one of many shady exchanges in hope that I could finally buy some BTC. (The most reputable exchange at the time was Mt Gox. We all know how that worked out.) Years later, I made a similar mistake with Ethereum, which traded at ~$70 at the time.
The 2020 NFT craze put crypto back on my radar. As I dug deeper into the rapidly developing blockchain tech stack, it became obvious that we’re entering the third major crypto wave, the one that will last a while.
Unlike many, I’m most interested not in the DeFi applications of web3, but in consumer social. In my opinion, web3 introduces new models of ownership for different classes of knowledge and information assets. This, in turn, creates opportunities to change how consumers behave online and even offline. Here we’re talking about everything from creator economy, to gig work, to customer loyalty.
Long story short, I decided to focus all my product work on web3, hence the upcoming shift in my writing from conventional product topics toward web3 product development and strategy.
Stick around, and let’s explore this space together. :)
Evgeny, thanks for sharing your personal story here.
I understand that you see PM skillset as means to get you ready for becoming a founder one day. If you knew back in the day that you'd be focusing on web3, would you have focused on getting into blockchain industry first, or would you still have chosen to invest a few years in learning and honing your PM skillsets in established companies before getting into blockchain?
I'd like to dissociate this question from web3, if you will: I want to know if you'd rate a founder who's been in an industry and is learning how to build a great product more likely to succeed or a founder who's been a PM for a while in great product-led companies and is learning the ins-and-outs of a completely new industry they have not experienced before.