When you're building a marketplace - a product or service business that brings multiple parties together and processes transactions - your work is immediately doubled.
Not only must you take the usual steps through customer discovery in search of problem / solution fit, your mission is to find a way to motivate different segments to come together and exchange value. To develop a single counterbalancing solution for multiple problems.
Shafiq Shariff knows the challenge well.
He tackled it over six years at Groupon and he's tackling it anew as SVP of Consumer Products for ShopRunner - a fast-growing marketplace startup that's helping boutique fashion retailers provide the benefit of fast shipping and no-hassle returns to its online customers.
This is not the first time Shafiq has gone from big to small. From humbler roots as a developer-turned-technical consultant, he moved to Microsoft and spent four years managing programs for Xbox Live and Office Online.
Then came Pelago, a twenty person startup with the requisite long list of problems waiting to be solved - "a perfect environment for any product manager to wet their feet," according to Shariff.
In 2011, Pelago was acquired by Groupon - then only in its second year - and over a weekend Shariff went from small to big to bigger (as Groupon scaled from 5,000 to over well over 11,000 employees).
Today, at ShopRunner, he's gone back to fighting the battles of early stage growth.
I guess it's a healthy paranoia which helps me at least try to stay away from that trap [of getting too comfortable in strategy and forgetting how to execute], where it becomes hard to visualize what it takes to get right back in the weeds of running a roadmap and a backlog and prioritizing and detailing the requirements for a story or viewing a UX and thinking really critically about what's going to make that right versus just overarching sweeping ideas and trying to throw that out and expecting them to get done right away. I think that's one of the reasons, honestly, that I have made a lot of the changes in my career, gone from big to small to big to small.
In this episode we go deep on:
- Having a healthy dose of curiosity
- Leveraging massive data sets and hacking major growth
- Unique tactics for building a marketplace business
Hit the play button below to hear the full conversation.