Do you remember the first plan you had for your business? It was probably very different from where you're at right now. Maite Muniz knows pretty well how that goes.
She cofounded Truora, a startup that always knew WhatsApp is king in Latin America. Truora helps companies hire people or get users faster in nine countries – and that idea and its execution have led it to recently raise US$ 15M, with a valuation of US$ 75M.
That's huge. Four years ago, however, the startup didn't explore the messaging app to its full potential.
Part of that was because Truora still had to discover those opportunities, and the other part was credited to having that startup's mentality of failing and learning fast. "I definitely remember this whole idea of 'the product that I'm showing you today is going to be the worst one you're ever gonna see'", Maite recalls in her chat on our Latitud Podcast.
The cofounder has plenty of hats in her wardrobe – she's responsible for managing product strategy, research & development, and customer relationships at Truora. She's been an entrepreneur for pretty much her entire professional life, and shared with us how she faced her first 100 days at Truora. And after that, how she grew and scaled the startup throughout Latin America.
Truora started with a step-by-step approach. The startup operated only in Colombia, and it also did only background checks through WhatsApp. The company's mission at that time was guaranteeing to its first two clients that employees were telling the truth about their criminal records and their identity.
"In our 100 days of product build, we had two main customers and we were building exclusively for them. So, we were listening to their issues, talking to them, and whatever they needed or required, we would go, research, do, and launch an MVP [minimum viable product]", says Maite.
As a B2B business, certain customers will definitely impact the roadmap and you can't afford to ignore them, especially when you're starting out on brand new market.
"I remember the initial days. I would say in the first nine months, especially since we were opening in new countries, every new customer per country… You know, whatever they said we'd do. I mean, we needed them. They were opening a country for us, it was that important."
It's easy to get lost in the demands of your first clients and strive to deliver the perfect product. But remember that done is better than perfect, and that's what MVPs are for.
"It's just that mentality that we have to launch fast, and faster each time. We had to be enemies of perfection in that way. Just keep launching and iterating as we're going, with actual user feedback, in order to improve." (Maite Muniz, Truora)
Later on, your startup can afford to be more selective with demands. "To some of those customers today, so three years later, we're not saying yes to everything. And it's been a huge change of mentality and mindset for both them and our team as well. Like, our team cannot believe that we're now saying no to some crazy requests because they were so used to us saying yes to those customer", says Maite.
"You actually mature on some of your decisions, and it goes both ways. The customers have to understand where they are standing on your roadmap. And you, as a company, have to decide which customers you're going to say yes to on everything and which ones you're going to have to be way more strict on your decision-making."
Selectiveness doesn't mean less work, however. It means investing in the best opportunities. After its initial phase, Truora wanted a more robust solution to the problem of fraud in Latin America. The startup expanded its reach to beyond employees, reaching users and addressing problems such as concession of credit.
"We realized that, for example, background checks did not bring as much potential revenue in the future as we thought. The TAM was smaller than we needed to. So we had to be thinking of other verticals of products to build and explore", says Maite. "Our master plan as a company went from 'every six months evaluated' to 'what's the market size towards our solution or other, the TAM, the total addressable market?'."
The way Truora was able to make a more structured product roadmap to deal with this growth and expansion was to have different squads for different products: one team was focused on background checks, and there was another team that was focused on building the new product for the end users.
And no matter what pressure one team was having versus the other, the startup would not switch resources unless it was a product decision made by their CPO, says Maite.
There's always going to be a lot of tension coming from the ones that are growing the product that is currently bringing revenue – in the case of Truora, their now traditional background checks. "But if I'm never focusing on a team, or a roadmap, or a product manager on the next product or the next idea, they're never going to be built. They're never going to be a priority."
"Sometimes, depending if you're raising a round or thinking about winning one big customer, you prioritize for the short-term. But you always need to have someone thinking about prioritizing for the next five years, in order to build a sustainable company." (Maite Muniz, Truora)
This team division opens up a common problem for startups that are at the growth stage: how to motivate the teams that work in the good trusty product that pays the bills, while there's another team working on the shiny new product?
"Motivating those teams is really hard because you're not upgrading the product anymore. You're maintaining the product at the best of its standard, it doesn't require any additional features. So, it's not a 'creative toward growth' mindset, it's a 'creative toward optimization' mindset", says Maite.
The engineer needs to feel compelled to ask himself: how can I maintain this awesome product with fewer bugs, with less maintenance, or with better filters for homonyms and international searches?
For that, Truora has their best senior engineer on the background checks team. "If you wanna learn a lot and work with him, you're working on that team. But it's hard, for sure", says Maite. "We try to have honest conversations with them [engineers] and try to rotate the team as well."
At what point in the company do you make that shift where you, as the founder and someone spearheading products, go from driving the roadmap to letting the team decide where the focus is going to be?
For the first eight to nine months, Maite was the only product manager in Truora. "There was one PM and six engineering teams, and I was also a founder. So I could have this huge upside on talking to the big customers and directly affecting the roadmap. It was just super simple."
When you're scaling to having multiple people make decisions, though, you must ask yourself who owns the product roadmap. For that, you need to have a framework that establishes up to what point the senior product managers make decisions. Here's the framework Maite Muniz uses in Truora.
Senior product managers can define their roadmap when they are related to a certain objective the startup wants to reach. This objective is defined by founders and by other senior team members through a brainstorming session that brings a lot of people into it, says Maite.
When the goal is set, PMs then decide how they and their teams are going to get there. "This brings him a ton of liberty on the roadmap, whether it's a feature, a bug, or a new country. They are able to define this based on 'Am I hitting a metric? Does this metric make sense to the founders?'."
Every month, the PMs sit down to define and review their roadmaps. And every 15 days, the startup only does this with the product leads.
"We plan to iterate and change. We have the perfect plan, the perfect roadmap, the perfect idea, and the perfect strategy – and we change them constantly. I think we're still at that point that we're young enough that we don't want to be tied down by the decisions we made a month ago, that may not be true with today's market." (Maite Muniz, Truora)