K. Song - Product Joiner, Pineapple Pair
Throughout PM101, Pineapple Pair made several changes to our product strategy. Initially, we were a two-sided platform that connected solo travelers who had a hotel room (supply side) with another solo traveler still looking for a room (demand side). However, during the MRD process, we realized that the likely imbalance in supply and demand could prevent the platform from gaining traction. As a result, we pivoted to a model that simply connects two solo travelers (neither with a hotel room yet) searching for roommates.
With this new model, a second major product change was to enable room booking directly on Pineapple Pair. To do so, we will utilize APIs like Zumata to incorporate hotel data on our platform. We made this decision after our research revealed that travel sites like Expedia do not hold hotel inventory. While this functionality will result in higher development costs, it will make Pineapple Pair more attractive and defensible. Finally, the third major product change was to focus on an additional set of users traveling for conferences and events. In our user interviews, we often heard that people would feel safer sharing a room with someone attending the same conference or event.
Throughout the semester, I have constantly been reminded that great products must focus on solving problems that are major pain points for the target persona. Rather than relying on any preconceived notions about what these pain points are, it is important to invest in user research. Additionally, great products are intuitive and simple. As PMs, we must prioritize features that drive meaningful value. Finally, I’ve come to realize that a lot of excellent products have the benefit of great timing. If Pineapple Pair tried to launch ten years ago before Airbnb and the rise of the sharing economy, we would have faced much stronger headwinds.
In terms of the product discovery process, our team did several things particularly well. We had a robust research process, meeting with hotel managers, solo travelers, and those with prior experience working on online travel platforms. Additionally, with our lo-fi testing, we had two strangers actually share a hotel room and have also been reaching out to conference and group event organizers. Finally, we have invested in increasing user trust, which will be important for our MVP testing next semester. For example, we have incorporated Pineapple Pair, set up a website, and put together a liability waiver form.
At the same time, we have made some mistakes and there are things I would differently in the future. At times, I felt that we scheduled too many interviews when we already had the answers we needed. With limited time, I would try to be more cognizant during the interview scheduling process. Additionally, it took us long as a group before pivoting and refining our business model. Some of this is unavoidable and simply a part of the process. While our meetings were well spent discussing challenging business and product issues, I do think that a more structured approach to running team meetings could have led to increased efficiency at times.
Overall, one of the most important lessons I learned in PM101 is that you need to be careful not to bias interviews and tests by asking leading questions or unnecessarily guiding users. People want to be cooperative and often tell you what you want to hear, so you must be aware of these dynamics. Additionally, I learned that in wireframes, it is important to not only consider the UI but also the UX. Specifically, wireframes need to be detailed enough so that it outlines how different pages and features will interact together.
This course has also given me an opportunity to discover what it would be like to become a full-time PM or product-focused founder. One of my favorite things about the PM role is that you get to wear many different hats. I can think strategically about market opportunities one week and design wireframes the next. The role complements my business experience in tech by challenging me to think more deeply from a product perspective. I’ve also learned that PMs must learn to effectively manage tradeoffs. There are often competing priorities, and it’s largely on the PM to cut through the noise and help figure out how to manage limited resources.
Finally, the semester has given me a chance to reflect on whether PMs or product-focused founders need to be technical. As someone without an engineering background, this has been top of mind for me. Overall, I have come out of the semester with the view that founders should look to either gain enough technical skills to be able to speak intelligibly with engineers or partner with a technical co-founder or CTO early on. This will help your company hire and execute better down the road.