Product management: What it takes to launch a fintech company

Clim8 Careers Team
12 April 2021

What product management skills does it take to launch a fintech company? To celebrate the launch of Clim8 Invest we spoke to Senior Product Manager, William McGowan.

William has spent his career solving customer problems through product-ownership, data analytics and business analysis. Following the Business Sustainability Management course at Cambridge Institute of Sustainability Leadership, he joined Clim8 Invest to help solve the biggest problem the world has ever faced.

Can you tell us a little bit about your career before Clim8?

I’ve worked in ‘product’ in some shape or form most of my career.

I fell into it by chance on a graduate scheme and then pursued roles in product management, mostly on consumer facing web and mobile products. I’ve worked in industries including banking, telecoms, tv streaming and international payments.  As I’ve progressed, I’ve been learning more and more about how to build products that solve real customer needs.

And I’ve worked out this is a lot easier when you really care about the problem you’re trying to solve.

How did you end up applying for your role at Clim8?

I was already following Clim8’s journey following their crowdfunding campaign and liked what they were doing. I’d connected with the Chief Product Officer on LinkedIn, so when the role came available I was quick to apply.

What was the biggest ‘pull’ for you to join?

Easy. The mission. I want to make an impact with the products I build and help solve the biggest challenge the world has ever faced.

Clim8 was a perfect opportunity to use my skill set as a product manager, with experience in fintech, to help be part of the solution to the climate crisis.

What makes a good product?

A good product solves a real user problem, and solves it in the easiest and most efficient way.

When we design our product here at Clim8, we always start by defining what user problem we’re trying to solve. Then we identify which problems we are placed to help with and come up with different solutions to them. At each step of the way we validate our thinking with real or prospective users of the product.

In our case, we’re trying to make it simple to invest in those things that will help solve the climate crisis, not add to it.

Does it take a different approach to build a product with a green mission?

Not really. The only challenge is that the problem you’re solving for can seem so big and a bit daunting. The trick is going back to basics, and working in small, manageable steps.

We won’t be able to solve the whole problem alone, but we can start with the bits that are most within our reach, and then iterate on those.

The other thing to be aware of is ‘how’ you build your product; making sure it’s aligned to the green mission (e.g. the tools and suppliers you use).

What's the most important thing you have learnt in your product management role so far?

Focus and breaking things down into smaller parts is always crucial when building a product, but even more so when you’re a start-up addressing such a chunky customer problem.

We won’t solve everything at once, but if you get the whole team laser focused on one problem at a time, you can achieve things remarkably quickly.

What areas of your profession did you feel you needed to upskill to get a job in sustainability?

I was fortunate to find a role that could combine a skill set I already had (building tech products) with something as impactful as sustainability.

But as I was looking more into sustainability in the 6 months or so before I joined Clim8, the link between technology and climate change really opened my eyes.

The rapid rise in cloud computing and the energy needed to enable it, for example, is making the problem worse. So it’s incumbent on people like us to question how we build our product without having unintended consequences.

How do you onboard new product managers at Clim8?

Autonomy is key. A product manager needs to be given the tools and space to do the job of solving customer problems.

Therefore onboarding focuses on providing that person with as much context as they need to hit the ground running and make decisions. That starts before the new product manager arrives by making sure as much as the insight we’ve gathered on the product and the market is documented in an easy to digest way when they arrive.

Once they’re here, it’s about setting them up to meet the right people they’ll need to work with and get information from - including our customers!

What would be your top tip for any product manager looking to take the leap and work for a purpose driven company?

Learn deeply about the area you want to move into. What are the different facets that need a solution built to address? Read, listen to podcasts, study; anything to get immersed in the issue.

And connect with people already in the field. Add them on LinkedIn, start a chat - whatever it takes. People are always keen to share ideas and knowledge with those eager to learn. And your network is often the best route into a new role.

Will can be reached on Linkedin.

Find out more about Clim8 Invest's work here.

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