Startup vs. Growth Stage PM

I’m interviewing with 2 different companies. One is a startup with a product that hasn’t launched yet. The other has been in operation, has a ~38-billion-dollar valuation, and is growing rapidly. I’m coming from an entrepreneurial background and I’m looking to gain better PM experience that I can take with me on my next career shift in PM. For the purposes of this discussion let’s assume the salary and benefits are exactly the same. The startup is a B2B product, and the Growth company is a B2C. Both companies have a very good product concept and market fit. I like both industries and I like both products. What would be the pros and cons of taking either position?


I found this Substack post really helpful when thinking about the right stage to go to: Stage of company, not name of company - by Nikhyl Singhal

Basically, he’s talking about the types of people who get selected for at each stage and develops an interesting framework of “peacetime” vs “wartime.”


@AlbertChappel, That’s a terrific article. Thanks for posting it.


How do you know of the B2B have a fit if they didn’t launched?

When I decided I want to be a PM I worked in both B2B and B2C so I could gain more experience, I what important for you the most is to learn, you need to decide if you want to learn a new area of expertise, or learning from other PMs (I’m assuming that in the startup there won’t be a lot of other PMs to learn from)


I’d choose the company with the product that’s already in the market for the following reasons:

  1. While valuations are not the best indicator, they still indicate some idea validation and adoption
  2. I have a personal preference for b2c. Things are faster, more exciting.
  3. Usually, growth phases are really challenging and exciting to work in. I’ve worked in a very high growth startup. It was very challenging (bad wlb, changing priorities/focus) but it was also the time that I learner alot and created an impact.
  4. Pre revenue ideas/products can also be fun, but you’d have to be deeply invested in the idea /product to be motivated and create a real impact

Curiously, this is the same problem that I have on my hands, although startup is B2C, and Growth company is B2B, and roles are GPM vs. Head of Product.

Oscillating between the two as well.


Head of product might be a nice choice.


To stay on your topic with you, I can tell you that I have even talked about that choice with my psychotherapist, haha, and I now see that there is no outside help that can help me choose.

Community or someone smart can give you enough resolve to actually make a choice, but what you’ll actually choose is something you have to find within yourself, however hard that may be.

Now, even though I have written that, I have a question for you. Your stated goal is ‘…better PM experience… next career shift’. What is the next career shift are you looking for? Are you looking to work in Corp later or go to start-up? What kind of skills are you looking for?

I have worked in 30, 350, 4k and 10k companies in terms of headcount, and they differ a lot in many dimensions. So, what’s your goals if you were to state them more clearly or maybe even in SMART format?


Hello @NathanEndicott,

Thanks for your thoughtful response. I have been self-employed my entire life and I’m taking the plunge into the workplace as a PM. I have a lot of experience as a PM though my businesses, it had major hardware and software development aspect to it. I’ve also been studying PM for the past 3 years when I realized that I wanted to get a job.

My goal is to become a respected product manager in software. I want a great work/life balance with a job that pays well, and allows me to be with my family when I’m not working (something I didn’t have much of in my business). I want to enjoy the work I do, and look forward to it. I had this in my business towards the beginning, but it started to get a little stale.

To decide whether or not I’ve achieved my goal I would like to work between 40 and 50 hours a week during normal business hours and have the ability to go away on the weekends 1-2 times a month. I want to be able to be around for every important milestone for my children. I want to retire in about 25 years (37 now).

To get here I need to land my first PM role to build my resume. It seems like my business experience is helpful, but it’s not getting me the attention that I need in the market. I need to keep that role for 2-5 years, in order to prove my loyalty. I need to accomplish great things for the company, things that I can highlight on my resume that are specific to the PM role. I have managed teams (3 developers, 15 employees) before but I need to get a better handle on working in a technology company specifically. I need to build my knowledge, further develop my skills in agile/scrum, and further my ability to “fit in” at the organization. I need to recognize that I’m not the boss, and make sure that I can influence people without authority (something I’ve always had in my previous roles).

My experience is in both B2B and B2C. And this exercise is very helpful for me, because if I’m going to be honest, consumers are a pain in the butt sometimes. Businesses are more respectful, will spend more money, and generally are more thoughtful in the way they operate and deal with other business. However, part of the goal is to make decent money, and consumer products have that “ultimate consumer” market which may lead to greater success faster (if you hit a home run). The B2B business would probably be a better fit in terms of my personality, actually.

As for timing, I want to land a decent role now. I want to grow with the company, and build my “corporate team” knowledge and skills. I want to work in the role for 3-5 years and then step up to a higher paid position internally or at another organization.

Hey that S.M.A.R.T. thing was super helpful. Thanks!


@VladPodpoly, be careful with product manager job my friend - work life balance and PMing generally don’t go together. Maybe you have that extra capacity build up being a founder and you can cruise as a PM but generally it is one of the harder jobs with less work life balance. Good luck!


@KaranTrivedi, I’m not looking to cruise. I know how to work hard. However, mental health is important and no matter how stressful the job is you must take time for yourself. Worklife balance is not optional.


I mean it depends on the product, but B2B typically has different sales cycle. There are evaluators, decision-makers and many other roles that can make it a hellhole for a PM to prioritise the work.

From what you have written I assume that you have made it much easier for you to make the choice, so I won’t get in-depth with what you have written, so I don’t influence your decision-making process. I can only say that what you have written sounds logical, albeit you might be missing certain parts of the overall picture (i.e., B2C is very different depending on whether it is product-dominated or service-dominated).


True. My B2C service dominated business has some customer support challenges to contend with. My B2B business is product focused and has less customer support challenges. So maybe I’ve got a bias. I also have some emotions because it’s my business, whereas working for someone else might have less of that??? Idk.


I agree. These opportunities give you very different experiences, and it totally depends on where you want to go next.


@MariaWilson, right now, that would be really meaningless title given that the company is pre-product (has working beta).


@Nathan, Would you be in charge of hiring PMs under you?

Also, since we have the same problem. One pro is that at the startup we would have much greater ability to influence the product. A con would be that there would be a smaller team, so less to learn from other people. A pro to the growth company is that it would be a larger team to learn from. A con is that you might be working on a mundane aspect of the product.


2 caveats.

  1. Whatever title you get now (CPO, Group PM), once the company grows you may find your responsibilities and your title adjusted or downgraded to more accurately reflect your execs perceived experience and capabilities of yourself. At the same time a more experienced or senior PM that could bring the company to the next stage could be brought in. Unless you’re a cofounder, then you’re pretty much immune.
  2. Its not uncommon for an early-stage company to have the founder be fully responsible for the product vision and subsequently, the direction. In such cases the product team would be more concerned in executing bets whilst the company finds product market fit or whatever the milestone is. Of course, it could be the founding team had a realization that they’d prefer to delegate product responsibilities to an employee and be hands off, but it’s very rare and I’d be skeptical of the founder market fit (the Quibi scenario).
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Yeah for both, on as-needed basis. In startup this ‘as-needed’ might happen quite late though.

Well, for me it’s mostly about risk-reward ratio. Pre-product company has much higher risk, but the payoff is much bigger given that you can get much more RSU. Although cashing out will take, well, 7-15 years?

High growth company has pretty straight trajectory to IPO/Strategic Acquisition, so their Options will be worth something in the next five years or so.