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- How One PM Built a Microstartup in 20 hours
How One PM Built a Microstartup in 20 hours
Interview with ChatPRD creator Claire Vo, the future of product management
Welcome to Carl’s Newsletter.
In today’s issue:
An interview with Claire Vo on how she created ChatPRD, and what it means for the future of product work.
Top links for discussions about the future of product product management.
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How to Build Your Own Microstartup
In the early wave of custom product GPTs, one stood out above the rest – the amazingly named ChatPRD.
ChatPRD is “an on-demand Chief Product Officer that writes & improves your PRDs.” It does everything from drafting PRDs, to improving requirements, to setting goals, to PM coaching.
Instead of being locked behind a $20/month ChatGPT Plus subscription, ChatPRD is available directly from chatprd.ai for $5/month.
While the product itself is an awesome tool for product managers, its very existence points to a huge potential shift in the product landscape. As we’re about to see, the creator of ChatPRD was able to get v1 out the door in only 20 hours, and it immediately attracted hundreds of users.
These kinds of super-small-team, AI-based products could be the first in a wave of microstartups of the future. Individuals will be able to take ideas from conception, to launch, to product-market fit in a matter of days instead of weeks or months.
Let’s learn more from the creator of ChatPRD herself, the CPO of Color and product memelord Claire Vo.
Carl: How would you describe ChatPRD? Who’s the ideal user and what should they use it for?
Claire: ChatPRD is a product manager copilot to draft requirements documents, improve your hard skills as a PM, and brainstorm roadmap ideas.
The ideal user is a PM who needs to regularly share written artifacts with their team and cross-functional partners. It’s great at taking high-level ideas and turning them into robust documentation. It’s also a great thought partner and coach, helping you identify places where you could improve your product thinking, communication, or execution.
I use it regularly to take a high-level idea (“help me draft a PRD for phone-based authentication”) into robust product documentation that can be discussed, debated, and ultimately–built.
How did you come up with the idea? What other ideas did you consider? Was this your first time working on a project like this?
For the last year, I’ve used ChatGPT as a product copilot, and tuned my prompts and instructions to consistently return high-quality product thinking & documents–much better than using GPT-4 directly.
I’m a many-time founder, so I’m not new to putting projects like this into the world. But this is my first gen AI tool I’ve commercialized.
You’ve mentioned that you wanted to host your own GPT so people don’t need to pay the $20 subscription for ChatGPT. Were there other reasons?
I initially launched ChatPRD as a GPT on ChatGPT, but eventually built it as a standalone app for folks that don’t have a ChatGPT Plus subscription. The standalone app also lets me build more custom features that aren’t available as an out-of-the-box GPT.
Also, ChatPRD hasn’t given GPT creators any monetization capabilities directly, and I wanted to experiment with pricing models to maximize adoption but also make sure I was covering my costs. Over 5000 chats have been generated via ChatPRD on ChatGPT and as a creator, I don’t see any of that value. Building it myself has just given me a lot of control.
Finally – I just really love coding and learning, so it’s a good excuse to dust off vs code and learn some new frameworks.
Once you landed on the idea, what were the next steps? What does it take to build and host something like ChatPRD? How much time did it take?
As I shared in my launch post, I built ChatPRD during naps and in stolen moments over Thanksgiving week. So it was maybe 20 hours of work split between here and there to get the v1 out the door.
My build stack was:
I’ve committed to a release every weekend (this is a side hustle!) so I probably spend 5-10 hours on it a week, across coding, marketing, customer support, etc.
What did you learn from building it? What lessons do you think PMs can take from your example? How do you think building micro-startups compares to being a PM at a company?
I think the most important lesson from building ChatPRD is how straightforward product market fit is when you really have it. Market size aside–I’m 100% confident I’ve built something of value.
How do I know?
It’s getting used organically and repeatedly
Folks are willing to pay a reasonable price for it
They use it despite it being simple and limited in functionality
I get lots of feedback and feature requests
I actually have to do customer support, because people don’t like it when there are issues
I think sometimes as product managers we convince ourselves that PMF is more complicated, but at the end of the day I really believe you feel it when you have it, and if you don’t know if you have it – you don’t. Building something like this has been a great reminder of the visceral experience of finding a problem worth solving and solving it well.
How’s the reaction been so far? Where are you hoping to take ChatPRD next? Any other microstartups in the works?
I’ve been getting a lot of really great feedback – my favorite was noting how much better it is than GPT-4 and other PM-oriented tools out there. I’m a little competitive so I love to hear I’m winning in my corner of the internet.
I think what’s next is more integration into the product/builder tool stack: Jira, Google Docs, Slack, as well as “teams” features – I have a lot of PM groups signing up after their VPs/leaders sponsor ChatPRD.
I’m always coding this or that, so I’m sure I’ll launch something different soon. What I’m loving about this gen AI moment is that it’s really reinvigorated my builder spirit. It’s so fun to manifest ideas into production-ready products. Only problem is that I still have more ideas than time!
Anything else you’d like to add or mention?
I read and respond to every single message, and put all my after-school hours (after kids, family, and health) into making her better. Customer feedback is the life-blood of anyone building a product, and I hope to hear directly from all of you.
The Future of Product Management
The last few years have been big for the field of product management.
With the massive shift from the covid-induced low-interest-rate hiring spree to the post-covid techpocalypse, the rise of AI, and some prominent executives challenging the necessity of product managers at all, 2024 promises to be a defining year for the field.
Here are some of the top links to catch you up:
Aakash Gupta’s overview and X Space on the 2023 changes to product management.
Marty Cagan’s article “Alternatives to Product Managers” – a direct response to Chesky’s interview.
That’s All For Today
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