Dear SaaStr: How Bad Does it Look to Be on The Product Team at a Failed Startup?
If the company actually shipped a strong product people respect — not bad at all.
If the company shipped something cr*ppy, a POS hack that looks like it — it’s a negative, at least to folks that have really shipped products to production.
Don’t worry too much. There aren’t enough great seasoned product folks out there. There just aren’t enough. So we have to hire every great product manager we can get. And it’s often not their fault they didn’t pick the next Slack.
We don’t blame you if the start-up failed. We don’t even care — so long as you’ve proven you can ship A+ level software. Ideally, that at least some customers have purchased.
When I meet someone like this, I ask for a demo. If the product rocked, I don’t really care exactly how far the company itself got. Further is better, of course. But unless it’s for a VP of Product position, I’m OK if you didn’t get enough paid customers to hit escape velocity.
(note: an updated SaaStr Classic answer)