Product-led growth (PLG) is more about the company’s mindset than it is about the product. There is a lot a company needs to do to succeed with a PLG strategy, and hiring product managers is not enough — neither can it be the first step. However, having the ability to attract the right talent is critical.
For product-led growth to become commonplace in cybersecurity, there needs to be enough product talent with the right mindset and level of maturity required for PLG. However, cybersecurity is a deeply specialized discipline, so while the specialized security knowledge isn’t mandatory, it does help ease the learning curve.
There lies the fundamental challenge in hiring product managers in cybersecurity who have experience working with PLG. The inherent complexity of cybersecurity makes it harder for outsiders to hit the ground running quickly. Companies understand that, so they default to hiring product managers with background or experience working in security. And, product managers with experience in cybersecurity often have little experience of building an effective product culture or working in PLG companies in general.
It’s not uncommon to see cybersecurity startups trying to do two things at once. On one hand, they recognize that being resourceful, agile and innovative is their only way to succeed. They want to embrace product-led growth, experiment with new ways to get in front of customers and build a strong culture focused on adding value and solving hard problems.
Shortening the time to value looks similar no matter the industry — don’t get swayed by the “15 years of experience” argument.
On the other hand, they value industry experience, so they end up hiring product, sales and marketing professionals from large, enterprise companies who come with already formed ideas about “how the industry works and what it takes to build/sell products.”
If you hire a bunch of experienced people from prominent cybersecurity enterprises, what you get is not PLG; you get the enterprise.
Where to look for product leaders with a passion for PLG
To see more PLG startups in cybersecurity, we need to break our hiring habits. Here are a few actionable ways to do it.
Hire people with no background in security
If you choose to only hire people with cybersecurity product management experience, you are limiting your options to those who have worked in the large enterprises you’re trying to disrupt. Why do you think they’ll innovate after joining your startup?
While a strong understanding of security is important for many technical product management roles, problem areas such as product adoption, activation, engagement and retention can most definitely be owned by product leaders with experience in other industries.