What I Learned From My LinkedIn “Ask Me Anything”

LinkedIn AMA

I asked for questions. You did not disappoint. Last week, LinkedIn invited me to do an “Ask Me Anything” event as part of Aha! being named to their top startups list for 2018. I knew the community would come up with good questions for me to respond to. But the range and thoughtfulness you showed was really inspiring.

Aha! being ranked among the top 25 most attractive companies to work for in 2018 was a great honor.

And it was great to continue the conversation with the LinkedIn community. The response was tremendous and the questions were thoughtful. I also worked hard to respond and was able to reply to almost everyone. As I did, I noticed some common threads emerge.

People want to know about:

Bootstrapping
“I’d love to hear what it was like bootstrapping in the heart of Silicon Valley w/o VC money.”
Everyone wants to learn more about how we started a fast-growing technology company without venture capital. Many people still seem doubtful it is possible — in fact, maybe bootstrapped companies should be considered the real unicorns. Consider this, six of the top 15 software companies on the Inc. 5000 List, including Aha!, rejected the traditional startup model by self-funding.

In one response, I shared the story of how we set out to build a radically different, high-growth technology company inspired by watching my grandparents build their own business. I never heard them bragging about how they funded it or getting media attention for borrowing money.

Salespeople
“Is there really no one working with your prospects ahead of them converting to customers?”
This topic raises more eyebrows than any other. How can a company possibly sell without salespeople? I have heard versions of this question many times. The answer is simple. When we personally buy products and services, we do not like to be “sold” to. I am almost certain that you feel the same. We want to buy from people who understand what we need.

That is why we replaced the traditional sales with our Customer Success team at Aha! Every person on this team has extensive product management experience. They are able to speak to customers on their terms, understand their challenges, and determine if Aha! is right for them. They receive no commission — their incentive is serving the customer.

Product management
“What classes would be useful to be a product manager?”
I love that the product management questions you asked spanned from roadmaps to customer requirements to interest in starting a product manager career. It is tough to summarize such a range of topics within a topic. But that variety allowed me to share some of my learnings related to responsiveness, development methodologies, and delivering what we call a Minimum Lovable Product.

As for classes? My recommendation was that product management is still essentially an apprenticeship. You learn on the job. And the exciting news is that, if you do learn quickly and succeed, the product manager career path is meaningful — Glassdoor recently called it one of the top 10 best jobs in America.

Managing a remote team
“What are some of the things Aha! does to keep your teams connected and collaborative since your teams are remote?”
Like bootstrapping, remote work seems to be a concept that people really want to embrace but are unsure about. Your questions ranged from accountability to team spirit to logistics.

I have written a lot about the benefits of remote work and managing distributed teams. Our own software makes staying connected a lot easier — we use Aha! to plan, schedule, track, and comment on work. We rely on video and chat for other communications. And we gather the entire company together twice a year for what we call “onsites.” We prove every day that the distributed model works.

Still, it is not for everybody. But when done right, it saves everyone time and money and gives companies access to the best teammates, no matter where they are.

Working at Aha!
“If you need a tech writer, please let me know.”
Every day we receive scores of applications — many more than we can respond to personally. I am always humbled by the interest that people have in working at Aha! We are growing rapidly. And we are always on the lookout for new teammates and adding open roles to our careers page.

With Aha! being recognized more and more for our unconventional approach, I will continue to write about the challenges of growing a meaningful business.

We are committed to helping companies reinvent how they innovate and build lovable products. But it is also our hope to inspire a new generation of founders to think differently about how to build a high-growth tech company while putting people first. And I am always happy to hear what you think, so keep sending your questions.

What is on your mind about building a great product or company?

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About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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