Geektime’s 2013 Select Startup Product Professionals of the Year
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Geektime is singling out startup professionals in Israel’s high-tech scene for some standout recognition. These are the Product Professionals we’ve selected for reasons depicted herein

‘Top’, ‘the best’, ‘#1’; these are all terms used in a given kind of post to try and single out a group of professionals as being at the forefront of their respective fields. But the truth is, who’s to say what constitutes being the ‘best’? It’s nearly impossible to find a set of criteria that cuts across differing products, niche markets, experience gaps and a host of other mitigating factors that go into labeling someone as the #1 in their field in a way that is both fair and definitive. And yet, all this shouldn’t deny some very impressive people a certain degree of well deserved recognition. Geektime has singled out groups of ten Israeli startup professionals in several categories, each for their own special reason, and asked them a range of revealing questions, the best answers of which were turned into the posts you will see published here on Geektime. Below are Geektime’s 2013 Israeli Startup Product Professionals of the year, selected for the reason’s depicted herein, and in no particular order:

osnat-nivroee-adnadav-naanat-elmatan-b

roy-manamit-kn-Copyyovav-whathanan-lvalon-carmel-Copy

osnat-nivOsnat Niv Asa

Title: CEO at PMsphere – Specializing in product management.

Years in the field: 15.

What project / product are you most proud of?

Since 2006 I’ve been advancing the profession of product management in Israel by building a community of product managers and people who deal in developing new products. I started setting up the product Managers Association in Israel that has since changed the format of the IL Product Management Meetup group. The group has over 1,600 members and is among the 10 largest Meetup groups in the country.

I am proud that by building up the community we brought a greater awareness of the profession. If once product professionals felt uncomfortable leaving work early to go network, today managers understand the immense importance of exposure to different companies and different experiences and they encourage their employees to take part in these meetings.

What was the project / product you found to be the most challenging that you were involved with, and how did you overcome the challenges?

My greatest challenge problem was creating awareness of our service called On Demand Product Management – Product Management Services Short or long term. When we started with this, service managers were skeptical; why outsource management for product? How is someone unfamiliar with the product in a position to add value in so short a time? Today, our customers realize the value added by bringing in an experienced product manager who will complement the abilities of the team, and when we leave after a short-term project the company and the team often find it difficult to say goodbye.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the project management field?

Product management is the kind of field that naturally attracts the project manager type. Until now there was no academic framework that provides formal training in the profession, so we built a course that suits beginners and experienced product managers alike. A product manager starting out will receive the tools and methodologies they need to succeed on the job, and of course the job description and responsibilities. Experienced product managers receive useful tools and strategies that will enable them to better cope with the challenges in the field, to optimize their time, avoid errors etc.

The uniqueness of our course is that it’s based on our practical experience acquired through working with companies. We continue to learn all the time, depending on the innovations in the field. We formulate a framework of ideas for working on new products and through ideas we get from customers. It also allows product managers who have previously heard our tutorials participate in learning new things.

Give us an example, in your opinion, of a great product?

I really like the Pango. I use it a lot and always enjoy seeing how simple to use it is and how much thought has gone into the client. I also use it as an example in our courses. It’s fun to use it to show how products can address the needs of the customer.

roee-adRoee Adler

Title: Currently I work as the chief product manager on WeWork, and until recently, I was the chief product manager for Soluto.

Years in the field: 15.

What was the project / product you found to be the most challenging that you were involved with, and how did you overcome the challenges?

The most difficult situation for me was when Soluto couldn’t handle the load for its number of users and we had to take down the service for some time. Most people I know do not know that in July of 2010 Soluto was down for 34 days. Our homepage was an apology and a place to leave your email address. Most companies are not able to recover from something like that.

Instead of getting upset we set out to worked out a plan to get back on track. The only question we asked ourselves was, How? We built a network of communication with all the bloggers and reporters covering the downed service and we made ​​sure that everyone understood exactly what happened, exactly what we did, and why it won’t happen again so that their readers would give us another chance. Once we covered damage control we got back into our rhythm and starting seeing download numbers even higher than before the fall. So in the end it was a very positive experience and most people are totally unaware of this story. Despite everything, it was a very difficult 34 days. We received thousands of complaints.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the project management field?

I believe there are types of product manager: one is a former software developer, possibly with a background as a team leader, and the other is an industrial engineer. If you don’t have a first degree or any experience, I’d recommend learning one of the following areas: computer science, software engineering / electrical or industrial engineering. If you have a background in developing and worked only in this area to date, I would recommend starting to read up on product management, and ask the boss to take a small part of one of the projects, try to lead it, and see what happens.

What’s is the worst product you’ve ever seen?

I think there are some products that are especially bad such as iTunes, that’s subpar considering the number of users and how Apple distributes it. Skype over the years has become more dreadful and less useful, so I try to avoid Skype these days. Adobe Reader takes the prize though simply because of the amount of junk the company tries to push through on the installation process, such as McAfee antivirus, etc.

nadav-naNadav Neeman

Title: Founder and CEO at Docady.

Years in the field: 15.

What project / product are you most proud of?

For me, the one that stands out is the PayPal Mobile Applications (AKA Mobile Wallet). After over 3 years of working at PayPal Headquarters in the Silicon-Valley, in a variety of roles, I was offered to join the new and emerging PayPal Mobile group as Head of PayPal Mobile Applications. Obviously I’m proud of the fact that the product was such a success – over 5M downloads and $4B in total payment value in less than 2 years – but what gives me the most gratification is the fact that we were making history. This “revolution” started within PayPal, envisioning a world where people use their mobile devices to make payments anywhere and anytime. We spearheaded an industry through a transition into the mobile payments world.

What was the project / product you found to be the most challenging that you were involved with, and how did you overcome the challenges?

The life of a product owner is filled with challenges (…don’t cry- it’s still the best job ever). But if I have to choose the most challenging product I was involved with it would probably be when I led the PayPal and eBay Buyer Protections programs. These were the early days of e-commerce and the challenge, from a product standpoint, was how do you give buyers the comfort of using PayPal and eBay to make their online purchases. For buyers and sellers it was somewhat a scary, risky territory with a lot of unknowns. For years, PayPal developed a brand of “Shop without sharing” (your personal and financial information) which was a brilliant approach and successful product offering at the time. Nevertheless, the time came where people needed more. We went into an investigation process that included many customer outreach sessions, product behavior analysis, and internal deliberations.  One thing became clear to us; we have to start treating buyers better. It was expected that we start taking more responsibility for experiences made on eBay and PayPal. We then come out with a new product with 100% Buyer Protection guarantied. These changes required a holistic change in the way we did many things both at PayPal and eBay. It included cultural, product and messaging changes.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the project management field?

Find a product or area that you feel passionate about. Make sure you understand the technology, landscape and customers. And just find a way to get involved in the doing. Once you become valuable to a product or organization, you’re in.

What are the most important characteristics of a good product manager?

The ability to listen. From the initiation of an idea through the actual development of a product. While taking the product to market, tracking and monitoring usage and closing the loop back to additional iterations – a product person must constantly listen. Truly listen! Listen to the customers. Listen to market trends. Listen to the team. Listen to advisors. Listen to management and investors, and most importantly listen to your heart.

Next, you should be open-minded. There are more ways than one to get from point A to point B. Keeping an open minded approach allows the true groundbreaking ideas and best experiences to emerge.

Be a go-getter. Get stuff done! Whatever it takes. Just do it. A product manager’s role is to turn dreams and visions into reality.

anat-elAnat Eldar

Title: Head of Product – Native advertising at Yahoo.

Years in the field: 7.5.

What would be your dream company / project to work for / on?

I’m fascinated the field of 3D printing. It’s exciting to imagine a future with this technology being standard. I would like to take part in the accessibility of this technology and making it part of the daily lives of children and adults alike.

Give us an example, in your opinion, of a great product?

Pinterest. For years I dreamed about a product that would allow for the collection of virtual objects, beautiful pictures of things that excite people. Pinterest actualized my dream product. It’s sophisticated with an amazing understanding of human nature, and those mysterious buttons gets to us.

What’s is the worst product you’ve ever seen?

“Worst’ is a strong word. A product that in my opinion doesn’t meet the needs of its user base is the radio in my car. Two round buttons and a minimalist display would make me happy. However, touch screen clearly does not allow for viewing in daylight. A series of mysterious icons requiring excellent eyesight and system navigation menus that I have yet to figure out how to program to my favorite radio stations – this design just doesn’t do it for me.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the project management field?

For me, product management skills are the kind of things that are learned on the job. Knowledge of the technology or design helps a lot. Appropriate background. You should look for opportunities to gain experience. To define a small product or a small component of a large product, That’s the right place to start as far as I see it.

What’s a product that you can’t live without?

The iPhone camera. (The best camera is the one that’s with you. (Chase Jarvis)

matan-bMatan Bar

Title: Co-Founders of The Gifts Project, now the eBay Israel Innovation Center.

Years in the Field: 10.

What project / product are you most proud of?

I can’t choose just one. It’s like asking which of your children you love more. However, there are two notable products: Go Together, a platform that enables users to organize as a group when exiting an event such as a game show and the like. This includes the possibility of coordination, payment cards etc. The second is the Stuff by eBay, and this is a product we ran over the last year that allows users to see all their purchases online automatically, in one place. The product’s success grew as users adopted the product. eBay used the information to produce added value and relevance to the user.

What are the most important characteristics of a good product manager?

I see a lot of product managers at various companies and the definition of the role and responsibilities that accompany assigns to them are completely different from company to company. So what makes a good product manager can very depending company.

In startups dealing in Mobile and Web, it’s important to have a working knowledge of the different technologies. Rather than a deep understanding how everything works, the PM needs to have the ability to understand what services currently exist and what technologies can contribute to the development of the product. A deep understanding of UX is important, as in product management revolves around it to a large degree. If you have an amazing technology but the user experience is bad all the technological effort is worthless.

Additionally, product managers should have agreeable personalities as well as analytical minds to be able to analyze data relating to user behavior. Perhaps the most important part of the job is the ability to analyze reports. You can’t make a good product without this skill. That’s where new ideas and ongoing enhancements stem from.

What’s is the worst product you’ve ever seen?

Shower faucets. Overall, this product is the worst that I can think of. I just cannot believe how complicated it is to find a comfortable temperature or to adjust its position from the top of the shower. In every shower the experience is different and the usability is just a disaster.

roy-manRoy Man

Title: Founder and CEO at daPulse.

Years in the field: 20.

What would be your dream company / project to work for / on?

I work on it right now. The choice to become an entrepreneur is the choice to build the company of your dreams in every way; the product itself and how it affects people, the organizational culture of the company etc. I live it every day.

Give us an example, in your opinion, of a great product?

I admire Fiverr.com and their approach to product. They created their product with deliberate limitations ($5 Gig) to make it work. They understand that the limitations of this approach can be liberating.

What are the most important characteristics of a good product manager?

Know how to listen. It’s important to understand the needs of customers and users and to figure out how to make the product meet those needs. Product managers always work within a team and they need to know how to communicate the insights product to people who work with them. The people I choose to work with are people who want to be told where they need to go, not how to get there, so it is important to know how to communicate where to go clearly, and to give people the freedom to get there in the best way they know how.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the project management field?

The market is flooded right now with people who want to be product managers. The best advice for those who have no previous experience is to start working on their own project or volunteer for important projects that need assistance. For example, a public information workshop.

What’s a product that you can’t live without?

My computer. I always say Home is where my laptop is. I really like it.

amit-kn-CopyAmit Knnaani

Title: VP of Product at DudaMobile.

Years in the field: 15.

Tell us a little about your experience in the field?

I started at Ynet in graphic arts and photography. I manage communities and eventually landed the job of product manager. Without a doubt this is the coolest job in the world. I worked at Wix for the first two years of that products life and ran the product department at ooVoo until I got the position I have today. I deal mainly with user experience and product definition in terms of what the user will see and feel, and all the little joys that come from managing a product that will be used by millions of people.

What was the project / product you found to be the most challenging that you were involved with, and how did you overcome the challenges?

I think the hardest thing for me was to make the switch from being a product manager – who if you’re good the product’s good –  to someone who manages a team and understands that you can’t be good at all, if each and every one of the people you work with aren’t good themselves. It’s a process, but eventually I began to really believe in my team and I now make it a point to only hire people who are a lot better than me at what they do.

Give us an example, in your opinion, of a great product?

There are many products that I really appreciate. Instagram is a genius app. The way it works, the UI and the company in run. Dropbox has a good product, and Y Combinator’s producing one good company after another. I would love to have a conversation with the managers there.

What are the most important characteristics of a good product manager?

To be really obsessive. Precision, attention to detail, empathy, understanding – but this is a trick question, really. There are all different types of product managers and my standards and needs do not necessarily carry over to other companies and their needs.

yovav-whatYoav J. Medad

Title: VP, Product at Moovit.

Years in the field: 12.

What are the most important characteristics of a good product manager?

A good product manager should own the product, be a strategic thinker, lead, communicate, analyze, pay attention to detail and know how to get things done. Most importantly, a good product manager needs to be diligent and never satisfied, always questioning the decisions they make.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the project management field?

Look at the qualities that it takes to be a good project manager, rank yourself within each, and then  make yourself a personal goal to improve in each and every aspect. Do that by reading blogs and books about project management. Get a job as an associate product manager and work under a project manager who can serve as your mentor. Find problems with existing products and envision how you would solve them.

What’s is the worst product you’ve ever seen?

Those shameless toolbars that are so easy to install but so difficult to get uninstall..

hanan-lvHanan Levin

Title: VP Product Management at ForeScout Technologies.

years in the field: 10.

What project / product are you most proud of?

My family. I have a wife whom I love and two little boys that move me to tears. They successful capture my heart like nothing else. Nothing makes me prouder than seeing a paper airplane that my son made or painting they did or listening to a story they made up. Watching this development and creativity in my opinion is one of the most wondrous aspects of all of creation.

What was the project / product you found to be the most challenging that you were involved with, and how did you overcome the challenges?

Sometimes you find yourself faced with unexpected challenges. Once for a Bombay exhibition I attended, my equipment arrived at the hotel but was sent back to the U.S. because the sales people failed to show up to the exhibition. I took a rickshaw in a monsoon to search for the equipment hoping it wasn’t sent back yet and I arrived at an abandoned warehouse with dust covered, mothballed packages that looked like they haven’t been seen since the days of Lawrence of Arabia. I finally found our equipment there and worked all night to build the pavilion where I introduced myself every show. The end of the exhibition was a success and I was interviewed on Indian state television.

Product managers always have issues with timing; trying to factor in market market conditions and uncertainty while planning development of a new product. But the biggest challenge is managing time between work and family – and still finding some time for yourself .

What are the most important characteristics of a good product manager?

A good product manager has to be multidisciplinary, good at; connecting people, focus, moving things forward, ability to see ahead, the ability to listen, have vision, have business acumen, an understanding of technology, a feel for the aesthetic, tenacity and they must be practical.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the project management field?

The path to product management in Israel is usually through software development, but I know people who studied architecture, philosophy, design and acting, and are excellent product managers. I believe that you should do what you enjoy doing and it eventually leads to the right place. As a student I worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency and I also studied CS, psychology, French, Spanish and UX. I did it out of interest and had no idea where this would lead me. I did not know that there was such a profession called product management. I work at it and this knowledge served me later on.

What’s a product you can’t live without?

The iPhone and chocolate.

alon-carmel-CopyAlon Carmel

Title: Product Manager at Internet Center.

Years in the field: 6.

What was the project / product you found to be the most challenging that you were involved with, and how did you overcome the challenges?

I think the hardest thing I’ve done in my job was to manage people. Working in product management can not prepare you for the administrative side of things and the need to work closely with others. I learned more in the last year about work and the development of emotional intelligence from what I’ve learned over my years as a product manager. Over the years, you tend to build a toolbox that you break out to address all the different product models you come across but your toolbox has nothing in the way of dealing with people that you can apply as a cookie cutter model.

What would be your dream company / project to work for / on?

In recent years I was very interested in the field of Charity. I was very happy to work on products like Change.org. In general I strive to work on products that change something in the world, meet a need or attempt to change perception. I hope I will be able to engage in these kinds of products for the better.

Give us an example, in your opinion, of a great product?

I don’t know if this falls into the category of Product but I would say Twitter Bootstrap – a package code to build a better Web user interface. I think this is a product that changed the Internet in terms of usability and quality of applications in a major way. The amazing team behind this open source package did not understand what kind of effect it would have on Web . There are already those calling for the end of Bootstrapping of the Internet because almost all users are using Twitter Bootstrap.

What’s is the worst product you’ve ever seen?

I think the websites run by the government. Accessibility, payments, information and other aspects are light years behind the private sector. Of course the fiasco of Obamacare needs mentioning as an example. Behind them comes Linkedin. I think this is one of the more inferior sites and inferior apps I’ve used to date.

What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the project management field?

Start to build your own products. Take the biggest problem which you encounter in daily life and try to mold it into a product idea that will solve the problem.Take a paper and write down all the the little aspects of the problem, how you would address the problem through design and programming, and after you succeed a few times to help people with this, start charging money. If you’re just starting out you still do not really know what to write as a product manager. I created a product for product managers that allows you to fill out a full product spec sheet through a series of simple questions that help you during your writing. I call it prd.io and it’s a product that I use myself during my day job all the time.

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Henn Idan

About Henn Idan


Lover of gadgets, apps and technology in general. Somehow among her many activities, which include, destroying cellular devices for the sake of science and an obsessive preoccupation with social networking, Idann finds time to write an article or two for Geektime on new applications, promising startups and product reviews for pretty much every new gadget that has ever hit the market – ever.

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  • Anonymous

    my vote goes to Alon, who is a rare combination of excellent coder, designer and a PM. good luck