Transcript | How NOT to be replaced by AI | Matt Kasner (Product @ PlayerZero)
The transcript from my podcast with Matt Kasner of PlayerZero
Matt Kasner 0:01
The most powerful thing you can do for yourself and those around you is be vulnerable. Right? I think there's two ways to go about fear. There's one, you can shell up, right? And say, I'm just gonna get through this heads down. Or you could be very honest with yourself. And I even say like, reflect Right? Like, sit down and be like, What am I great at? What am I not great at? Where where's process? You know, great for me? Where's it not where we're gonna be very honest about the inefficiencies that I have as a contributing member to your team. And circle those things to say what are the tools that I can bring in to make me better, right to make me more efficient, and be the driver of that mindset in your organization.
Max Matson 0:54
Welcome to the Future of Product podcast, where I, Max Matson, interview founders and product leaders at the most exciting AI startups to give you an exclusive glimpse into the workflows, philosophies and product journeys that are shaping the current and future AI landscape. This week, sit down with my good friend and colleague, Matt Kasner, entrepreneur, product guru, a head of product player zero, as a product monitoring platform that gets you closer than ever before to your customers. With all that said, let's dive right in.
Hey there, everybody. Welcome to a new Future of Product. Today, my guest is Matt Kasner - head of product at PlayerZero, a great friend of mine and also a compatriot. So Matt, would you mind introducing yourself?
Matt Kasner 1:35
Yeah, thanks for having me, Max, really excited. Awesome to kind of watch you go on this journey and building our Future of Product and talking to cool people. And I'm lucky to be a part of that select group. So yeah, thanks again for having me on. My background started after graduating in 2015. from Stanford, I came out of school and started a startup of my own. So kind of went with the path less traveled. And kind of was a glutton for punishment ran that for about three and a half years down in LA was in the fitness industry, I played football in college. So I want to continue that mindset to what I did on a day to day and the value that I could bring to specific people that I cared about, exited that after three and a half years shifted more into a, I guess you would call it more established company. But at the time, it was startups. It's, it's a nonprofit accelerator for Stanford based startups. So I got to work with on a day to day basis, dozens of amazing entrepreneurs who are building great companies. So that was really exciting for me to kind of still be involved in the startup world without having to bear a lot of the weight of building a startup, got the itch about two years in to get back into more of the operational role of a startup. And, you know, at that time, I met automatic, who's our founder at player zero. And I'd worked with him in some capacity as his account manager actually, at start x. And we decided, hey, let's let's kind of do this thing. So I jumped on with him moved out to Atlanta. And that's where we've been running player zero for the past two years, we actually initially started as a different company name. I've had a few changes in between, as you do when you're trying to find product market fit and go to market. But yeah, I'm really excited about where we're at and kind of what the landscape for the value we're looking to bring looks like.
Max Matson 3:26
And just everybody just you did your undergrad at Stanford, right? Didn't do my undergrad at Stanford. Yes. Gotcha. Gotcha. Makes sense. Makes sense. I'd love to hear just a little bit more about kind of those early days, right. Like you kind of mentioned, there's been a pivot drop step, as you famously referred to. Could you talk me through just a little bit of the logic behind that? What kind of motivated that and maybe what, you know, some other product people can maybe take from from that?
Matt Kasner 3:53
Yeah, great question. So you know, when we started out two years ago, Onimusha just come out of a very prestigious Lab at Stanford, where he was surrounded by amazing scientists who then turn that technology into a company's foundationally in AI. Databricks being kind of one of the preeminent names sisu data was another one, some awesome people that we look up to. But you know, again, when he came out of college, he had this awesome technology. And then came the time to figure out how it would best serve, you know, society, right? How can it be actionable and moving the needle for people that wanted to use this technology for good. And so when I joined, that's where we were at, and what we needed to figure out was, how do we make it fit? So my job was to come in and talk and understand, you know, the people in the market that we're trying to sell to understand their needs, their pain points, and we started out as a testing product, so which was which is really interesting. I had no background and saw Software, I was actually hardware, by training and then community in my previous role. And so coming into this world of software was very quickly had to learn, you know, about about the space about the pain points about the day to day of the people were selling for and it was more technical was more software based. So that was a that was a blast. After we did testing for a little bit, what we figured out was the technology was pretty robust. But it wasn't clear who the buyer was going to be and what the contract size would be in those circumstances. Right. So that's part of building a startup is not only how robust is the product, but it's does it really fit and are people willing to pay for it. So after we came to that conclusion that you know, we needed to shift left, as we like to call it, we'd like to say testing is on the right side, and then the user sits close to the left side.
So when you look at quality, we want it to go more towards that, that user because that's where the pain killer is, right, that's the we need to fix it. Now, we need to get things done as a company and our users are directly correlated to $1 value. So that's where we wanted to kind of shift this technology. And over time, through different iterations, we came to where we are today with player zero, which in a nutshell, helps companies monitor their product experiences and more specifically, their customers individual experiences, right? So you can think about it. Like when we're making decisions as product people, as a product person that can speak to this, you always want to be as close to the user and how you think about the problem as possible. And, you know, in your day to day, when it's a small scale company, it's kind of easy to monitor every single experience and say, like a full story or there's replay tools. But as you scale and as you know, the ownership landscape of your role changes, you lose touch on what is actually happening to those users. And we wanted to grant everybody the ability to stay as close to your users as possible. So you understand what's working, and then what's not.
And then root cause the why behind why things aren't working, right. So we can create this expectation and say, hey, they didn't meet this expectation due to X. And then you can double click in and get everything you need behind the root cause of that issue, which is this eye opening experience from a product manager perspective from a product leader saying, hey, how do I stay close and understand behavior and changing behavior. And then you look at it from like a support angle, we've talked about shifting left, you can be extremely close to your users at all time know exactly what they're going through before they even reach out to you if they're having a negative experience. So long winded way of saying, we pivoted the company to shift closer to the problem and the pain point that our users were feeling and that companies were willing to pay for quite, quite frankly,
Max Matson 7:57
I see that makes a ton of sense. I like what you say there, it's not always just about making a quality product. It's making a quality product that actually solves somebody's pain point. Right. Right. That's the crucial part of that. So kind of on that subject. I know like, you know, with player zero, there's been some some pivots and drop steps. But I know that you specifically do a lot of talking to, you know, PMs, people in the product space, would you mind kind of talking a little bit about some of the things that you were able to learn from that experience?
Matt Kasner 8:26
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Before I get started with that drop step, I'm gonna highlight why we use the term drop stuff. And you know, pivots, pivots fine, too. But, you know, I grew up playing hoops. And when you think about a pivot, if you're not familiar with it, you're actually moving away from the basket to face up to the basket. And a drop step. I was a, I was a big man. So I did a lot of drop stepping. I think it's a way to gain ground while also gaining position towards the basket, right. So it's a way of facing up without actually moving backwards. And that's how I kind of like to frame what we do with every decision we make. Because we're not going I don't like to frame this as going backwards. I always like to say, you know, we're building towards a goal, and this is kind of part of that process.
So just just to throw the clarification there as to why we appreciate it there on stuff around here. Yeah, so in my role, like I kind of make it a habit, and I think most people in products should when they have time is talk to external people, not only who they're building for, but just people who are in their network, who would understand kind of the pain points that they're personally going through. I'm lucky in that. My ICP, that player zero is also my community is, you know, is who I am right? I would sell to myself, more likely than not, so it's kind of a twofer. So there's the company benefit, but then there's also the social benefit of me being able to move myself forward with being in the right circles and hearing what's trending and how people are thinking about problems. So When I sit down with with these customers or just people in my network, it's a great opportunity for me to kind of dig deeper and understand more about product. One through line.
Obviously, this is Future of Product.ai. So kind of what is the AI implications of that specific topic? One big thing that comes up is we are an AI tool, right AI PlayerZero, we are at our foundation, a very robust AI tool that adds a lot of value for product people across the board. Now, there's two ways of approaching a product like that. When I pitch it, right, when I explained what we do, there's one excitement, right? There's Oh, this is cool. How do I bring this in? But there's also been this interesting trend of fear, right? There's this what is AI going to do to right? What is it going to do to my future? What I'll say is I empathize with that greatly. I wake up every day and I'm like, what does this my week look like? Right? They you look at plugins for chat, GBT being the Thing Two weeks ago, and now auto GPT is taking over. But it's like, well, what does that mean for the landscape and having your ear to the tech industry, everything is moving so fast. And it's so hard to keep up with it. So I as well, having anxiety around it. So it's great to have newsletters, like the Future of Product that kind of keep me up with Hey, what's trending? How are people thinking about these problems? Back to the people I talk to - when I talk to them, again, there's some fear around what is this going to mean? And I think the it goes from excitement to fear, because there's a lot of layoffs happening. There's a lot of people who are trying to find their footing and a very unsure tech economy, right, where it's like, how do I fit in? How do I grow?
And what I like to drive home in these conversations, is that AI really is there to pick up the pieces that are inefficiencies, right. So product managers are very, and product people, again, product leaders, VPs of product, whatever it might be, are very creative. They're very dynamic. They have to fit this role of the connector, the glue person, as I like to call it within a company, the communication side of things, the empathizing side of things, they have to put it all together. And they had to command the room and say, Hey, here's what our roadmap looks like. Now, that's hard, being creative, being empathetic. That's, that's hard. And that's human. And that's something that AI I don't think in the next 20 years will be able to figure out. Now, for my kids, I don't know what that's gonna look like. But that's a different topic for a different time. But we should all be embracing AI to address the inefficiencies that we have in our day to day right to make this a supercharged as I like to say it so that we can do what makes us unique. We can invest more than that that's really going to move the needle and differentiate us. Yeah, to some degree.
Max Matson 13:05
Yeah, absolutely. I actually, in last week's newsletter, I talked a little bit about how people are using AI to kind of augment human empathy and kind of make us a little bit more empathetic, right. And I feel like you know, that approach can be applied to a lot of different goals, right? So say, spending less time on the minutia, right, spending more time actually engaging with people learning about people. And just from knowing you a bit, I know that that's something that you are huge on right is actually making human connections. So I want to ask you, what are some of the ways that you use AI to kind of, you know, bolster your your humanity be more empathetic kind of be the the pm that you talk about?
Matt Kasner 13:44
Yeah, so great question. I try to embrace tools as much as I can. It's interesting at an early stage startup, because so it's a two part answer here. The first one is I do, uh, probably not as much as I would if I were at a bigger company. And the why behind that is when you're at an early stage startup, you have to do things that are unscalable. To understand and empathize, right? So there's that side of things where it's like, I need to sit down with as many people as I can, so I can understand these pain points, so I can hear they talk about certain things. And then I can create those efficiencies and build, you know, the, the AI tooling on top of that to make sure that we're optimizing for the right thing. So I would say that I could be you know, as we grow, I will adopt more and more. But I think, you know, obviously there's the there's a small things right, like we have a JD and I need to pump out a description of a job or role or a contract that we need to be hiring right. Like yesterday, I did that in about one minute with with Chad GBT super easy. You kind of figure out the prompts. You go back and forth takes two or three minutes and at the end of the day, you're good to go. Another one I use.
I think going back to our earlier conversation about my excitement of talking to people you know, what's not so exciting is the monotony behind finding the right people and reaching out, right. And I think I tried to be as human as possible in outreach, because I do care. And so you know, lists will be created for me. But those lists are created through tooling, right? They're created in a way that it makes it really efficient for me to kind of look at a list that's been predefined, as warm and interesting in a way that I can get a lot of value out of it, that I can optimize my time in those meetings. And then once I'm in those meetings, I have to willing to take my take notes, tell me if I'm on a monologue, which I probably have been for the majority of this conversation, and kind of break down my talking style to make sure that hey, you know, is this how you want to be leading this conversation? Or maybe you want to split time a little bit differently. So there's that cueing that happens, right? So again, it's all those subtle things that make me make me supercharged to be more empathetic to, to be more in the moment and to be there with that person. And to optimize the time I'm able to spend towards that. So that if you want a product named Darwin's called fathom, I know, there's another one actually on Product Hunt, I saw today called dive from a note taking meeting recording perspective on all things that have really moved the needle for me and in what I do on a day to day.
Max Matson 16:21
Awesome. Yeah, it's, uh, you know, speaking to that anxiety a little bit, I think people are concerned that they're going to be replaced, right? My job is communication based, am I going to be replaced by this AI communication tool? If it's writing am I going to be replaced by this, you know, AI writing tool, but it sounds like, you know, kind of struck a good balance, where, instead of replacing the action, it's just augmenting it kind of making it that much more, you know, step towards your actual goal, which is communicating efficiently showing empathy, all of these things. Right.
Matt Kasner 16:53
Right. Exactly. Yeah, it's, it's the human side of things. And it's, it's tough because we anchor our value as people and the things that we do on a day to day basis, and the line items on our calendar, right? I do this, I do this, I do this, I'm busy all the time. That means I'm valuable. That means that I'm contributing. Right. And it's, it's weird, and I'm sure you've read the innovators dilemma, I think that this is a perfect example of the way that we need to be looking at the situation. And so if you haven't read Innovators Dilemma, it really comes down to are you consistently disrupting, right? Are you in that mindset of disrupting yourself to stay ahead. And I like to see myself as this project that will always be a project, and what technology it's more important than ever to be constantly redefining and innovating on the way that I go about my job, the way I think about problems, and AI, is a way to kind of help feed into that. And staying on top of that is extremely important. So I bucket time every day, to looking up, hey, how can I be better? Right? Like, what are the things I need to do? Where can I be efficient? So I'm constantly, you know, creating a better version of myself, so to speak a more efficient version of myself, where I can highlight my strengths, and automate the process as much as possible.
Max Matson 18:20
Totally a true product manager, you treat yourself as the product, right?
Matt Kasner 18:25
I mean, why not? Right, like we are, I have this fascination. And this is why I actually started the fitness company with like, the human body and the mind. And it's like, there's, it's such a beautiful machine. Right, and that, that probably sounds a little lofty to say, but it's like this, you know, we are these like, perfectly put together organisms. And we need to continue building on what we are and getting better and investing time in ourselves. Because that's how you're going to have the most output, right, the more input you have, the more like the correct input, the better the output is going to be. And I truly believe that with how we do our day to day as well, how we think about problem solving, and really understanding, you know, who we are and what we're going to bring to the table.
Max Matson 19:10
Totally. And you bring up that first company that you that you lead, would you mind talking a little bit more about kind of what you learned from that process? Because I feel like typically, you know, and from my own experience, when it comes to entrepreneurship, a lot of the times it's you know, the the failures or perceived failures that actually teach us the most build a successful product, would it would you mind talking to that and a little bit? Yeah,
Matt Kasner 19:33
so coming out of college. I was in a product design class and for the Capstone, I created basically this foot harness system that is now patented, that I got the idea from playing football and we would constantly like wrap bands around our feet and attach them in these different ways, right? And they would slip off or it's really uncomfortable. So I basically created this harness system that you could still move around normally but you could also clip in bands, so you can get that elastic risk. instance. So it was a really cool system, we had the team using it like it started to kind of grow over time. My time was mainly invested in product development. And me finding to some degree now, I've spent a lot of time reflecting on that period. It's a very stressful one, I will say, and I think the biggest business takeaway I have from it is I really didn't lean into the hard things coming out of college, like I'm starting a startup, this is going to be great. We have some sales, we have some success. Like, let's keep rolling with that.
And I think in great contrast to what we've done here at PlayerZero, we didn't ask, like, how do we make this we had assumptions, and we wrote off those assumptions, right, but we didn't build off of certainty, right? It wasn't like sales, like, we had sales numbers, but how strong were they? And how efficient were they? And what was the price point? It wasn't really right. And we had a branding strategy that kind of like that worked, but like, was it scalable? And was it as broad reaching as we wanted it to be? And for what the market was looking for? And I think that's where I kind of look back and go, I didn't push myself to ask the hard questions enough, I did. The easier thing, the things that were, you know, maybe for someone else, they would be harder. But for me, it's like building thinking about product, all that stuff is so easy, but selling boots on the ground, something I wasn't comfortable with. And as a result, I just opted not to do it a lot of the times, right, like and I tried to find more efficient ways without doing it the hard way. And it's funny, because in the past six months here in player zero, we've been doing things the hard way, right? It's, it's we're we're selling we're talking we're, you know, constantly iterating on this, like, more and more fine tuned over time. But that's the role that I've embodied here. So it's, it's cool to see in reflection, that growth I've had, but yeah, looking back, like could have been something if I was willing to really push myself to be honest, and to hear the full picture from our users, not just what I wanted to hear.
Max Matson 22:02
Gotcha, gotcha, that that makes sense. Yeah. I mean, I've had similar experience in that regard, right? It's easy to, especially if you don't like sales to kind of deprioritize it. But then again, if you're the founder, who else is going to do it? Right. Yeah. But all that being said, you know, I've found just from working with you, that you, as a product manager, always have, you know, that go to market mentality, to some extent where you're, you're, you're focused on how to make the product intrinsically more sellable. Right. So I wonder if maybe that came some extent, from your experience with, you know, the other startup, realizing how important that is, and building it into your product process?
Matt Kasner 22:40
Yeah, yeah, I think that's a great point. I don't know if I've really ever thought about it that way. I think foundationally my, where I see my role personally, is, and I think a lot of product managers, if they have the time and bandwidth I, you know, get some AI to help you out with the heavy lifting. So you can focus more or less, I think the user voice needs to find its way into every decision you make. And engineering innovation, I like have more than enough respect for engineers, and all the work they do, especially on our team. Like they're amazing. But there's the spin your wheels, if you're not building the right thing for the right person at the right time when they need it. Right. So every decision we make needs to be informed by a user need and ICP, every conversation we have we say hey, pitch that pitch that back to me through when they use an actual use case from a specific user. How would you frame that? And that's yeah, that's an adoption. Mindset adoption that is new and but to like you said, I didn't have before. It was like, Oh, it'll like sure that that kind of makes sense. Like, why wouldn't it?
I mean, we've done some research, but now it's like, Are you sure? Have you heard it? Have you? Do you have users who are paying to use it? Like, how are you? How are you like validating your assumptions. And always bringing the user voices is my way of being sure and confident and making sure that the entire team is on board. And what I'll say is, this is a nice segue talking back into player zero, because we stay on top of customer, we help you stay on top of customer experience, right? Like we surface, the behaviors and the oddities that are happening in your application at all times. And so when you're talking to an engineering team support team executives, right, you have the data, right there you have behavior, real users, what they're doing well and what they're not doing well, down to the specific person, you know, at your beck and call that data is there. So that's what's super exciting is we're building a product that I think I've seen growth in myself is really hard to do. I've had great people around me like yourself helping me like, push that narrative. Yeah, really just kind of excited about being able to make that a more scalable value for other people.
Max Matson 25:11
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. That's something that I've definitely seen with PlayerZero is for product people, right? And you've used the term glue person to describe that role, right? I can't imagine how daunting it can be. Well, I can imagine, to try and present something to somebody who's hyper technical knows exactly what they're talking about, and not really have any clue about the technical aspect. But trying to advocate for that user.
Matt Kasner 25:38
The great equalizer is the user, I tell you, man, like, there. There is sometimes you're in situations where there's no convincing somebody that they're not looking at something the right way. But when you bring a real user into a conversation, and you say this, the you know, the proof is in the pudding, like, it's right here. And here's what's causing this, right, like, that's, you can't push back on that you just can't, because at the end of the day, you're building a product for people who are paying you to continue to build that product. And if you're telling me that they're wrong, then that's something unto its own. Right. So that's the cool thing about about leading with user and having tools that help you continue to lead with the user is it is the Great, the great equalizer, and they the great translator, I think is a better way to put it.
Max Matson 26:33
I like that, like thinking about it as a translator makes a lot of sense. Yeah. So for that PM, you know, let's say, entry to mid level pm. I know we've talked a lot about AI and how it can kind of be really useful. But I would imagine that people who are in that position, given the current economy are still feeling like, you know, all well and good. But could this replace me? Right? So to that person, do you have any advice?
Matt Kasner 26:59
Yeah, I mean, I think lean into education is the first and foremost, I think, the most powerful thing you can do for yourself, and those around us be vulnerable, right? I think there's two ways to go about fear. There's one, you can shell up, right, and say, I'm just gonna get through this heads down. Or you can be very honest with yourself. And I even say, like, reflect Right? Like, sit down and be like, What am I great at? What am I not great at? Where where's process? You know, great for me, where's it not where we're going to be very honest about the inefficiencies that I have, as a contributing member to your team, and circle those things and say, what are the tools that I can bring in to make me better, right, to make me more efficient, and be the driver of that mindset in your organization? Oh, there's going to be there's going to be like the the the first movers in an organization who are leading the charge, and then they're going to be people who are kind of like slacking behind and just adopting what people tell them to adopt. What I would say is, reflect, be honest with yourself, be vulnerable with yourself and those around you for feedback on tooling, and then be excited to bring that in.
Because when I look at people that we're going to be hiring, what I want is people who are going to be disrupting themselves consistently, right. And Max, you do a great job of this, like, better than anybody, you find efficiencies, and you say, this has taken me way too long, you get frustrated? Because innately, you know, there's something better, right? I think I'm kind of in that boat with you, but I see it with you. And then the next day, there's a tool. There's like, Hey, I did some research, we have a couple of back and forth on Slack. Right? Right. A couple tools this work this, didn't we, you know, we kind of throw ideas back and forth. And you come in with a tool. And I think that's the that's the mentality you have to have, and embrace it, and continue to learn the days of like, getting a system, a framework that's going to last you for 30 years. That's, that's funny. It's like my parents generation is if you kind of have this playbook, you're good, right? You've been able to kind of rinse and repeat. That isn't going to work anymore. Right? Like you have to refresh like every quarter every two quarters to challenge yourself. So start with vulnerabilities, start with feedback, start with honesty, and then find ways to make yourself better and highlight the things that you're great at that nobody else or AI can kind of supplant.
Max Matson 29:37
Totally. I love that answer. So Matt, having worked with you for a while now, one thing that I know about you that I've seen from you more than probably anybody else, is that you are kind of obsessive about educating yourself. Right and going out and finding the resources to kind of, you know, upgrade your skills. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Matt Kasner 29:58
Yeah, absolutely. Um, I think there's a there's an input quality portion of this, right? So there's a lot of noise. And there's a lot of just stuff being bounced around that's kind of regurgitated from one person to the next. And I think you know, where I live heavily on like LinkedIn, and I follow a lot of great people. And like I mentioned earlier, a lot of that comes through, like customer discovery, and just kind of trying to build my community and reach out to people in the space. And then I'm lucky enough to kind of follow them on their journey as they learned and the things that they like. And, you know, the LinkedIn algorithm serves up some content to me. So that's like, one of the main drivers I use is kind of looking about the people I look up to, the people who are friends of mine are mentors of mine and what they're looking at and what they're really investing time into showing interest in. So that's where I really start, right. And there's, there's a lot of great not just use cases, but takes on the future of product and a lot of like what I'm saying today is informed by those people in that network that network effects that LinkedIn is created.
They speak very elegantly to hey, here are the problems we're facing today. And you get these unique perspectives of a CEO of a product leader of an engineer. And here's how I'm using AI, right. And so, there again, like I said, there can be noise. But when you have people you respect, talking about things, it's pretty easy to like, empathize and sit in their shoes. So that's kind of where I start in terms of entry educated myself on the way that people are thinking about a specific problem. I also think I try to subscribe to as many newsletters as possible, I try to listen to as many eBooks as possible big ebook person, not really a big reader more efficient for ebooks, because I can like garden stuff. But you know, newsletters are a big portion of it.
Lenny, obviously is a is a Northstar for, like everything we do, the people he brings on are so inspirational in the way they think about problems and the frameworks. So I learned a lot from him just about being a great product person. And you know, talking with you, Max, and thinking about how we could take our learnings take, you know, our day to day and everything we deal with on the AI side of things in the conversations that we have and, and create this opportunity this, this educational source for the people who don't understand are trying to learn more about AI. That's the greatest opportunity for us, because we're taking all these things that inspired us from say LinkedIn or Lenny's and we're intertwining those into this newsletter. So that's what I'm really excited. I know, your question was more about how I educate myself, and very simply, it's newsletters, books, and people in my community. But the output of that not only as a great product in player zero, but as helping contribute to what you're building at Future of Product, and taking the best pieces of all those different things and creating one cohesive story for our, you know, the person that is me, the person that I you know, empathize with, which is that product person who, you know, there's a lot of, there's a lot of newsletters out there that are lists of tools that aren't specific to workflows that we deal with on a day to day, right, there's a hey, here's a tool, figure out how it fits instead, the angle of hey, here's a tool, and here's how it's gonna make you better here, here and here. And that's what's so cool about what you're working on.
Max Matson 33:33
Oh, thanks, man, I appreciate that. It's been, it's been a pretty great joint effort. You know, I mean, I think one of the things I've picked up from you a lot is being that perpetual student, you know, it really does take a certain mindset to always be open to learning to not, you know, just assuming that you've got the best way, and it's not going to change, right, that kind of playbook that you mentioned earlier. But especially now, with kind of the pace that everything is moving at, you really have to be that perpetual student, you always have to be open to new ideas to new modes of learning. And you have consistently been a person who I've seen, do that very effectively.
Matt Kasner 34:08
Appreciate that, you know, you know, the big thing is, we actually talked about this yesterday, I think as a Slack message, but you just you have to be open to feedback, you have to not take things personally, you know, gotta just keep growing, that any you you stop accepting that you're not not perfect. Or you start accepting that you're not perfect. One of the things you're not perfect, and once you realize that, like that you're a constant project, then you can start making steps in growth, right? But if you're defensive and you think your processes, right, like you're up for a rude awakening, because you're gonna be you're gonna be you know, someone's gonna leap over you in a short time because they're willing to be honest with themselves and the people around them.
Max Matson 34:54
Totally No 100% 100% And I think that kind of ties into kind of another laid a piece which is you were very good at at forming relationships with people and learning from them at kind of, you know, connecting. I think a lot of PMS while they want that type of connection, kind of are afraid of feeling salesy or coming across, as you know, inauthentic? How do you kind of maintain your authenticity while while doing this?
Matt Kasner 35:22
Yeah, that's a great question. I asked myself that question often about, you know, where's the line and like you said, you know, being a salesperson or feeling salesy, and what it comes down for me, and, again, this is I'm going to speak for myself here, I truly believe in the product we're building because of the work that we've put in and the value that it brings. And, again, by nature, I'm not a salesperson, I'm more of a builder, a tinkerer, and what I've really come to realize is, if you're investing in the user and the person and addressing those needs, then you're just bringing value, right? Like, you're not selling, just to get dollars, you're selling to deliver value to bring someone a tool or an opportunity, or a new way of thinking. And that's what's so exciting. And that's, that's where there's this interesting blend between being a salesperson and being a product, customer discovery person. Because if if you're learning and listening, and you know, being open to hearing from that person, then what you're going to be giving back to them is honesty. And it's going to be authenticity. And it's going to be value and a product, that's that's going to move the needle for them because you're actually listening because you care, because you're taking their feedback. And maybe you're getting a nod now. But hey, what what's always gonna be in the back of your head is, I remember that one time that this person said this one thing, and how can we make their life easier, right, like every data point moves the needle. And that's kind of how you have to approach it from a, how I talk to people, how I show them the value of the product, and why it should matter.
Max Matson 37:09
I love that doing it the right way, right? Staying as close to the product as possible, as close to the user as possible and truly integrating their feedback.
Matt Kasner 37:17
Yeah, you just want people to like, feel empowered, there's there's, like, try to build people up as much as you can. And when you're doing that, it's pretty easy to offer them something like inadvertently that like they're going to like love that it's going to make their life great. And like, who's not up for a win win in that situation?
Max Matson 37:37
Totally, totally. Yeah, it just comes down to really believing in the product. So there's something I wanted to touch on, that I know that you have a lot of thoughts on, which is the importance of data quality in building product, right? Player zero is a solution that really does a great job of kind of making all data agnostic to some extent, right? You've kind of transcended this, this place where data is held in each individual department. Can you speak a little bit to like what the future looks like when it comes to kind of data across organizations? Yeah, so
Matt Kasner 38:14
the AI revolution. And what's happening today is really underlining like, the value of data, right, and the type of data you're collecting, where you're collecting it from? Because again, that's your input, right? That's, that's what's building your models is the data. And you see, like these, these industry giants, like the red, it's in the chorus, and now they're putting up paywalls, to say, hey, look, you can't just mine my data, like this is our data. This is because they realized that that's that's the differentiator. And I don't know, if you listened to the all in podcast, it's probably one of the most popular entrepreneur podcasts out there. But they talked about this, Tomas talked about this pretty often where, you know, what's gonna matter at the end of the day is who's capturing the most and in the most authentic, real differentiated data? And how are you using that to train these datasets, right, and these, these algorithms, so I really, like have this focus on what type of data we're collecting. And you know, I know automatic, our CEO, he's like the driver of this, and I'm drinking his kool aid the whole way. So I'm very, we're very much aligned at player zero. So I think there's two parts past the answer. I've already given that I kind of want to break this down. So I'm player zero, there's, there's this opportunity to blend analytics and engineering. Right.
And in today's world, and I guess, yesterday or up till today, there's been analytics tools. There's been engineering tools, there has been customer data tools, and they all kind of sit like you said in these silos. And what happens is to tell a story about that data. To tell a real story. You need all of those inputs. So what exists prior to player zero is, I hear something from analytics, I have a hypothesis. Now I'm gonna go over to engineering and try to validate that, right? Or maybe I'm incorrect in that assumption. And then in which case, I have to go back, ask new questions, look deeper reach out to customers, to try to figure out what's actually happening in an application at any moment in time. Oftentimes, honestly, what I've heard is teams just like put it in the backlog, which is like the worst. Because it's so hard. It's so difficult. It's so time consuming. It's like, oh, maybe if we hear from a couple more people will prioritize this, right? Because the process of building that story is so difficult, and they're in these silos. Now, okay, well, well, we're focused on a player zero is combining all of that. And I think that's where the future of, of data are of, I would say, experience and monitoring tooling is going across the board. And we're really excited to kind of be at the forefront of that, where we build that story for you. Right, there's no, there's sure there's a little bit of interpretation.
But all of its right there, right, you have your analytics, which is showing behavior. And then you have your engineering showing you the the issues that are popping up at specific times accompanied by logs, and, you know, screenshots and stubs stripe for each individual user. So you can build a better understanding of your of your users experience in real time without swivel chairs, without asking for engineering help or support help, right without having to play this what we call the game of telephone, which is the worst, worst thing ever, because you as you know, at the end of a telephone is some garbled up message, that wasn't actually where you want it to go, but is kind of what was the output of that. So to summarize, with player zero and our mindset towards the data, is give people the data they need in a way that makes sense and can tell as much of a story as possible. And then they can make great decisions based off that they can use a different side of their brain. And going back to what we talked about earlier, like that data analyst side of the product brain, right is a nice to have, right, that's not a need to have, it's a oh, I can kind of do that. Or it would be really nice to hire a data analyst to like put the story together. Imagine like, that's just all done for you. And then you can just make decisions and communicate and drive outcomes. And that's where I think, you know, we're really excited is that unifying of that data in these different silos in a way that's actionable and meaningful for growth?
Max Matson 42:42
Instead of looking at the customer from this perspective, or that perspective, or this one, you're looking at them as a holistic, actual, true individual?
Matt Kasner 42:50
Exactly. It's a real person. And it's the most efficient way to understand your your user is from from all angles. It's not just from one or they're not just a line, right? They're not just a line on a on a graph, punched up with a bunch of other lines, right? Like, what is what does that mean? And how does it help people empathize? Right, and all of a sudden, if you can build this, this, you know, archetype of a human, like, that's so valuable for for building conviction and excitement around decision making.
Max Matson 43:23
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So talking about PlayerZero a little bit more, but specifically with your role. You know, being kind of a small team, at a growing startup, you kind of wear a lot of hats, right? Would you mind talking a little bit about how you stay efficient with your time, despite, you know, having a ton of stuff in the air?
Matt Kasner 43:45
Yeah, no, it's it's a, it's a good question. And one that causes me a lot of exhaustion, because it takes a lot of time to do it right, and to be really efficient and a lot of mental mental bandwidth. So just to kind of paint a picture before I talk about, like, actually, what I do, you know, my role, like I said previously, is like, the, the conveyor between the user and everything we do as a company, right? And what is what is happening? What are they saying? Why are they saying it? And how do we best represent that in our product, in our process in our culture, right. So all of those different things. And what that means tangibly is how we're making product decisions, how we're talking about messaging on a website, how were you know, building out, you know, infrastructure, all those different things kind of kind of come into play. And so for me, it's really important. I'm sure many people listening, kind of go through this, that the idea of time blocking is really important, right? So, you know, while I try to be as flexible as I can, I'm always as flexible as possible for users or customers. Because as a customer experience person, it's my job to make sure they're unblocked. I can be with them whenever they need it. Right? So that's flexible always. Now there's the I'm gonna block my time for more customer discovery, right? Where I'm continuing to learn, bring an input. There's blocks in my calendar for product meetings, right?
So it's how am I taking what I learned there, and meet with our wonderful head of UX, Rebecca to talk about, hey, Howard, what's the perceived value going to be from from our users? And then obviously, the marketing side of things with you max is, it's the other portion, right? And So concretely, it's time blocking, is being specific to eliminate dead weight in between meetings, and to, I guess, be more efficient with outside of a meeting as possible, right? It's very popular nowadays, people are like, no Wednesdays are no meetings on Wednesdays, Fridays. And you know, I generally like believe that's true, though. I think any blocker, any question mark can be solved better in a meeting than in a slack? But I also think it's important to be honest and be like, one, what's priority? And two? Can this be like, with one quick message can this be solved. So I think that's also important. And that goes back to you know, always questioning, always reinventing our, our process. And we've we changed being a startup, not only our product, but our process, like quite frequently. And Max, you know, you joined like, almost a year ago now. And you've probably seen seen three or four shifts, and how we just do our project management, trying to find the most efficient way, the way that sticks that works for our connection to engineering. So that's always also really important for how we do, what we do as we grow is making sure we're always saying, Hey, I don't need to necessarily fit a new piece into a puzzle, that doesn't mean a piece like you need to kind of rework what that puzzle looks like in order to create an effective solution.
Max Matson 46:58
Totally, totally. No, I it's so important, right? Like, there's a certain degree of process that needs to be hit. And that line is one that can really only be found with experimentation. That's I think that's the the main piece of advice that I would carry over to anyone who's in a startup or trying to launch their own, is you have to be flexible with this stuff, right? You have to be willing to experiment to push it to see if it fails. And then if it does, to move on to the next thing, right?
Matt Kasner 47:26
Yeah. So let me ask you, you know, before this, you had your own your own company. And like, me, you were coming into an industry that was completely new. And, and you even more than I said, at the top of that funnel, right? Where you have to create this message and sit in the right places, like, how have you seen your personal growth and understanding, you know, the users? And what the process that you need to have to constantly be educating yourself on, you know, our ever changing ICP profile?
Max Matson 48:04
Totally? Yeah, that's a fantastic question. So when I first came in, and you've alluded to it, we've had these kind of dropped steps, right? Where, when I first came in, we were really looking at that engineer, ICP. And I was kind of coming in with a traditional marketing outlook, going in doing my industry audits, auditing companies trying to see what their plays, were seeing what worked for everyone else. And about a month into that process was when I actually started sitting down with customers and talking to them. And honestly, I wish I would have just done that from day one, right? Because nobody is going to tell you more about the need for your product about pain points about value than the person that you're actually going to be selling to, right. So in my experience, that was the big difference maker, and that's carried on, right. So when we kind of dropped, stepped into delivering value for product managers, I think you and I literally took a month to just go sit down with PMS and learn and talk to them. And not really with any agenda, but just trying to really understand who these folks were right. And from my perspective, that more than anything else, you know, because there's always going to be SEO research and trends and all that stuff. But what's most important is actually knowing the person that you're trying to sell to before you have tried to sell to
Matt Kasner 49:27
them. Spot on spot on. That reminds me that I think this is like one of the best things that we do. And I remember when we did the the pivot to a new ICP. You know, I think innately you and I and the rest of the team has this bias for action. Right? Like let's move fast. Let's crank it out. Let's go. Let's go. Let's go. And I remember sitting down with you, and there was a very palpable level of discomfort. Yeah, Right, like, there was a, huh. I think I know what I need to do. But I guess like, and what we the conclusion we came to, like you just said is, and we've done this multiple times, but sometimes you lose sight of it is like, book some meetings, talk to talk to two dozen people totally right, like, get some clarity. And with each meeting, come back to the following meeting with a little bit more clarity and new questions, right. And over time, you start to formulate this understanding and funnel down and funnel down and funnel down to these really interesting insights that can then fuel the decision making process.
And it was it's just like a whirlwind. And I'm so happy you brought that up, because it's like one of my favorite things that we've done. And it felt so empowering is like, I felt in total control after those meetings, right, like after the two weeks of week, you know, just going all out with, you know, meeting with different PMS, even engineers, right? Like, even though those are old ICP, how do they see this, right? Like, what does that shift look like? Because we know it's a team effort. So yeah, that's, that's something I would recommend to anybody is, when you're stuck, don't try to unstick yourself by yourself. Right? Use your team. But more than anything, if you can, as a product person, call a user up be like, hey, look, I'm really tangling with this problem. Be vulnerable be like, I don't know the answer to this problem. What do you what are you thinking? Because at that point, they're teammates just as much as they are users. And to be honest, people love that. Like, I'd be loyal to a product, if I know that, that people respect who I am, in my opinion. So I think if you frame it that way, versus Hey, we need some feature like feedback. Like that's tough. That's, that's a little automated, but maybe it's like, I'm really having trouble understanding this. Would you be open for a call to kind of talk through this with me? And like, brainstorm, like, that's a, that's exciting. Like, why would people want to be a part
Max Matson 52:08
of that type of collaboration? Yeah. 100%? Yeah. I mean, I was blown away by the response that we got, right? Like, it was, like, one out of every three people that we contacted was like, hell, yeah, they'll jump on. super supportive. And I would say, for the product community, especially, I was just blown away by how, how much time people were willing to give, just to kind of give that feedback. You're totally spot on, I feel like you know, at the end of the day, the person who's having the problem is probably the best person to speak to the problem, right. And for any potential founders out there, I would say even before you start building your product, figure out what the pain point is figure out what the person you're trying to sell to who is actually experiencing it, and then just to a letter solve that problem.
Matt Kasner 52:51
Right? Exactly. It's, it's that easy, you know, be right. I think that's the heat. Like, that's the to go back to the theme of this pod. Like, that's the human part, right? Like, that's the vulnerability, the honesty, the part you can automate is being honest and open in being a teammate and being somebody that's there for other people and asks for help when they need it. And if you're going to take anything out of out of this discussion, it's, you know, check your ego at the door, and embrace what's to come and be excited about it and identify areas of improvement in yourself. And always be looking to disrupt, disrupt the way you work and in the way you kind of see yourself as a as a member of a team.
Max Matson 53:49
beautifully put. Well, Matt, I think we've reached the natural conclusion for the pot. It was so fun talking to you.
Matt Kasner 53:57
Yeah, it's like, we're not going to talk here. Like there's something else. But no, this is, this is great max. And, you know, I'll reiterate like, I'm, I'm excited to be a part of our, you know, a part of this educational experience for other people. And obviously, like I said, like, anybody who wants to connect and talk about these things, more than happy to do it, because I learned every step of the way. But I think all props go to you for creating an avenue for people to start learning product people specifically. And I do want to underline that because I think that's that's really important about Future of Product is that it's not just a blanket, spray and pray, here's some tools. It's a let's build a better product person and how can we optimize who you are? So shout out to you for doing this for bringing on great people. And, you know, I'm just I'm happy to be part of the journey.
Max Matson 54:56
Oh, yeah, couldn't have done it without you man seriously, helps having you know, one have the better PMs in the in the world kind of on your team there. Thanks me. Oh yeah, there you go. Meeting of which? Just at Matt Kassner it?
Matt Kasner 55:12
Oh yeah, I think so. You can find me Yeah, it says Future of Product contributor and then PlayerZero, but yeah just search Matt Kasner and should be the first one I know how many Matt Kasners there are but there's a bull riding one. So for a while yeah, I just never ranked the highest on the Google which was tough. You know, playing college football, you'd think you'd be like the first one.
Max Matson 55:39
There's always someone I think there's a neuroscientists, for me, so
Matt Kasner 55:44
Always somebody. Yeah, please feel free to reach out on LinkedIn. And yeah, keep the conversations coming. Love it.
Max Matson 55:51
Awesome. Thank you so much.
Thank you for listening to another episode of the Future of Product podcast and a special thanks to my amazing guests, Matt. We enjoyed this episode, we want to learn more about what we do over at player zero. You can find us at player zero.ai. If you're looking to go even deeper on the subjects we talked about in the pod, subscribe to Future of Product and substack Be sure not to miss this Thursday's newsletter in which I break down the biggest takeaways from my conversation with Matt and explore in depth how product people can make themselves irreplaceable with AI tools. I look forward to seeing you there.